With the rise in student loan related scams, many borrowers are wary of anything that doesn’t look legitimate or sounds fishy.
It’s not unusual to get a call from someone claiming to be a lender and asking for your date of birth and the last four digits of your social security number.
This one is a tricky situation for one simple reason: it might be a scam, but the odds are good that it is legitimate.
The Most Likely Explanation
Lenders often have to call borrowers to discuss their student loan accounts.
However, lenders also need to be certain that the person they are talking to is the actual borrower.
Someone else may have answered the cell phone or landline. Thus, the lender should take some action to verify that they are not providing loan information to someone else.
By asking for your date of birth and the last four digits of your social security number, the lender can verify that they are talking to the right person.
The Concern About “Lender” Calls Asking for Identifying Information
Even though the call is probably legitimate, it is still concerning for a borrower.
We’ve seen scams in the past where the scammers know some details about the borrower and their account. They might know your name and student loan balance.
By answering the “verifying” questions, you could be giving the scammer even more identifying information.
The danger here is a potential identity theft situation.
Trusting Caller ID Information
Theoretically, you could save your lender’s contact information on your phone. If the call comes from your lender, you should be safe.
Unfortunately, it is possible to trick call ID systems by “spoofing” the number. Someone could place a call that looks like it is coming from your loan servicer, even though it is a scam.
Borrowers that wish to stay vigilant can’t rely on caller ID information alone.
Avoiding Scam Panic
The potential scam described here would be extremely complicated.
If you answered a lender call and provided identifying information, it doesn’t mean you were scammed. The most likely explanation is that you received a lender phone call. If, after providing your information, you conducted routine business regarding your loan, it probably wasn’t a scam.
If you are worried, you can always call your lender to inquire about whether or not they called you. Hopefully, they will have a record of the call happening.
The Safest Approach to Calls from Lenders
If you get a call from your lender or a bank, and they want to verify your identity, but you want to verify their identity, there are a couple of steps that can be taken.
Ideally, the lender is calling with something simple. For example, they might want you to update your contact information. In this case, you can end the phone call without providing any identifying information and update your information on their website.
Another option is to ask the caller if they have an extension where they can be reached. If they provide it, look up your lender’s contact information online. Call the lender and use the extension provided.
Going this route is probably overkill and unlikely to be necessary. Unfortunately, you never know. A few extra steps can help ensure that you don’t fall victim to a scam.
Sherpa Tip: I’ve had this conversation with my bank several times. The bank rep has always been understanding of my desire to verify and accomodated my request.
If the person who called is pushy or questions what you are doing, that is a red flag. Banks and lenders don’t want to have identity theft issues either. If anything, they should appreciate the extra security steps you are taking.
Dealing with Student Loan Scams
If you think you fell for a student loan scam, hope is not lost.
If a possible scammer has your full social security number, there are steps you can take to freeze your number and protect your identity.
Additionally, if you have fallen for any student loan related scam, there are tools and resources available to protect your interests and hold the scammers accountable.