Nationally, student loan debt currently stands at over $1 trillion. But the I-Team has found that students who seek help consolidating their loans have more problems and take on more debt.
Wheeling resident Amy Matuga said she got a call from Progress Advocates offering to help with a loan forgiveness program.
“Anything he could think of to tell me, he told me,” Amy Matuga said.
What she got was a $1,400 fee for a loan consolidation with an interest rate of 20%.
“Federal government interest rates are around 6-7% and certainly 20%, that’s way beyond what you’d expect from a consolidation loan,” said Matt Ribe of the National Foundation. for Credit Counseling.
Matuga did not lose any money and Defenders of Progress terminate his contract.
The company has a “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau for six complaints.
The I-Team also found that the company had the same registered LLC agent as Student Advocates and a rep on the phone told I-Team it was the same company.
Student Advocates also has a “F” with the BBB for 38 complaints.
“I would like to say to this company, I hope you go bankrupt,” Matuga said.
Dawn Harvey of Crystal Lake used the same company. Harvey said he was told there was a one-time fee of $99.
“…[A]And it was affordable to me and it sounded good,” Harvey said. “They took five payments of $99. I noticed my bank statement and thought what is this? I have not been able to contact anyone from this Progress Advocates LLC”,
Harvey also said no breaches were made in her original loans, so she closed her bank account.
“It’s $800 to $900 that’s gone,” Harvey said.
Student loan experts have now warned consumers.
“The way a lot of these companies position themselves is to be able to get you some kind of spectacular deal, some kind of huge forgiveness and that sounds too good to be true and so that would be a red flag and certainly you don’t want to give your banking information to anyone,” Ribe said.
The I-Team has received no response from the student loan companies, but their contract tells customers that loan consolidations can be done for free and their paid service is to handle all documents and applications.
Harvey said the service only put him more in debt.
“I just want my money back,” Harvey said.
For advice if you are having trouble with your federal student loans:
– That of the government Federal Student Aid website has information for borrowers.
– There are only a few contracted student loan servers. They are listed on the website and can help borrowers with loan repayment issues.
For advice if you are having difficulty with loans:
– Quality nonprofits charge reasonable fees based on the consumer’s ability to pay and sometimes waive fees all together.
– Ask what is the value of the fees you are being asked to pay. Know what you are getting.
– The National Credit Counseling Foundation website provides borrowers with free resources to help them understand their situation.
Better Business Bureau Reports:
– Defenders of progress: http://www.bbb.org/losangelessiliconvalley/business-reviews/loan-modification/progress-advocates-group-in-el-segundo-ca-636530
– Student advocates: http://www.bbb.org/sdoc/business-reviews/debt-relief-services/student-advocates-in-costa-mesa-ca-172016115
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