EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When President Joe Biden declared that the federal government would be canceling up to $20,000 in student loans for millions of Americans, scammers took notice.
Within minutes of the announcement, cyber security expert Kevin Ricci said scammers were already sending unsolicited emails and text messages regarding eligibility.
Ricci said over the years, scammers have perfected their craft in a way that makes it almost impossible for people to determine whether an email, text message or phone call are legitimate.
“These scammers are really more sophisticated than they were just a few short years ago,” Ricci explained. “They are making their communications look authentic.”
Often times, Ricci said scammers take to social media to learn more about their victims.
“It’s easy to find information on social media,” he said, adding that government initiatives that impact millions of people make it easier for them to pick a target.
So, how can you spot a scammer?
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests people we wary of unsolicited phone calls, emails and text messages, and be on the lookout for fake government websites that look eerily similar to their legitimate counterparts.
When it comes to the relief program specifically, BBB encouraged borrowers to take a closer look at the terms of their students loans before sharing their personal information.
The BBB urged everyone to never pay for a free government program.
Scammers typically trick people into paying by assuring their victims that they’ll receive additional benefits or by disguising the payment as a processing fee. The federal government will never ask for payment for these kinds of services, according to the BBB.
When in doubt, the BBB suggests contacting the government agency directly to verify whether the unsolicited calls and messages are legitimate.
Anyone who believes they’ve fallen victim to a scam should report it using the BBB’s Scam Tracker.