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The Biden administration increases efforts to fight student loan forgiveness scams

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In other news, the Biden administration is increasing efforts to fight scams targeting student loan borrowers. Fraud is flourishing while borrowers wait for more details on the administration's sweeping plans for student debt forgiveness. NPR's Meg Anderson reports.

MEG ANDERSON, BYLINE: The White House is going to cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt for as many as 40 million borrowers. But since that relief was announced in August, the government has released very little information about the application process.

BETSY MAYOTTE: This Biden forgiveness thing is Christmas, Thanksgiving and Fourth of July all rolled into one for the scammers.

ANDERSON: Betsy Mayotte is the president of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors. She says that vacuum of information has created an opportunity. Here's an example of a suspicious call one borrower in Texas shared with NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: It's urgent that you return my call to complete your application prior to when payments resume.

RICHARD CORDRAY: There are evil people who will be trying to use a program like this and run their own frauds and scams to somehow get money or personal information about people. And we want people to know how to steer clear of that.

ANDERSON: Richard Cordray is the chief operating officer of Federal Student Aid, a branch of the Education Department. To try to hold potential scammers accountable, the administration is increasing communication across agencies in the federal government. They also plan to coordinate more with states so attorneys general there can bring their own cases.

CORDRAY: It's an all-of-government approach because what we know is it's already happening.

ANDERSON: But a lot of that work falls on borrowers themselves. The White House is planning on partnering with social media influencers to educate borrowers. Officials say don't give out your personal information to unfamiliar callers. And applying for debt relief is not going to cost money. One way to avoid some of these scams in the first place would be to release more information on the forgiveness application.

CORDRAY: We're moving at warp speed to get the application and the process going here to get as much relief as possible to the hardworking former students who deserve this relief.

ANDERSON: There are still no clear details about what the application for loan forgiveness will look like or when it will be released. Meg Anderson, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Meg Anderson is an editor on NPR's Investigations team, where she shapes the team's groundbreaking work for radio, digital and social platforms. She served as a producer on the Peabody Award-winning series Lost Mothers, which investigated the high rate of maternal mortality in the United States. She also does her own original reporting for the team, including the series Heat and Health in American Cities, which won multiple awards, and the story of a COVID-19 outbreak in a Black community and the systemic factors at play. She also completed a fellowship as a local reporter for WAMU, the public radio station for Washington, D.C. Before joining the Investigations team, she worked on NPR's politics desk, education desk and on Morning Edition. Her roots are in the Midwest, where she graduated with a Master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.