Beware the student loan scam on Instagram

by Christine DiGangi,

Unfortunately — for those who got their hopes up from posts on social media — Sallie Mae is not offering loan forgiveness as a result of the government shutdown.

Scammers created at least 15 fake Sallie Mae Instagram accounts, offering loan forgiveness to the first several thousand users to follow them. The instructions differed among the accounts, which were called officialsalliemae, salliemaestudentloans, salliemae_2013 and the like, many of which included misspelled versions of the company’s name.

On Facebook and Twitter, the company’s official accounts announced it was not running any promotions on Instagram — Sallie Mae doesn’t have an Instagram, according to a tweet from @SallieMae — and encouraged consumers to ignore the impostors.

Several Instagram users posted email addresses to one of the fake accounts, because the post said borrowers would receive email information for paying their $200 loan forgiveness fee by bank transfer, after which the loan servicer would handle the “federal governent.”

Before the shutdown, the office of Federal Student Aid posted a message to its website saying it expected “limited impact to the federal student aid application (FAFSA) process, to the delivery of federal student aid, or to the federal student loan repayment functions.”

Student loan servicers are not government agencies and are therefore not directly affected by the shutdown.

This scam presents a few things worth noting: Consumers need to know how to spot an Internet scam (the misspellings here are a huge red flag), there are no shortcuts when it comes to loan repayment (though there are real forgiveness programs borrowers may qualify for), and cons will take every opportunity to ensnare consumers during a time of confusion.