Lenoir City mom victimized by student loan scam

LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (WATE) - Statistics about student loan debt are shocking. The average student in the class of 2017 is more than $37,000 in debt and there are more than 44 million borrowers across the country.

A young East Tennessee woman became the victim of a scam by a company that claimed it could help her lower her debt, but she had to send them money first. 

The largest concentration of student loan borrowers are under 30 years old. It's tough for young people, often married and with children, to try to beat back their student loans. Unfortunately, some businesses take advantage of those people.

"They said I could reduce my payments," said Lindsey Thompson.

Thompson is a hardworking young mother struggling to pay back her student loans. In 2011, she entered Campbellsville University in Kentucky where she studied exercise science. After a few years, she transferred to Western Kentucky University for online business classes.

When her baby came along, Thompson left school, but had accumulated a huge debt in student loans. 

"Twenty-eight thousand in debt. I had a little bit more at the time," she said.

Thompson  started working two jobs to pay back the loans. But even with her husband's income, it was tough beating back the debt and her monthly payments.

"I wanted the payments to be lower because I had increasing loan amounts because they were going to go up," she said.

Last July, she contacted her loan company, Great Lakes Student Loans, a highly reputable federal student loan servicing company. She asked if her payments could be lowered.

"They gave me the forbearance. I was supposed to turn in the paperwork within a month. I had a company call within that month," said Thompson.

That company was National Student Aid Care. Thompson said she was told they are a branch of Great Lakes. She says they told her they could reduce her monthly payments by $50 per month.

However, there was a hitch. Before Thompson got the forbearance she had to advance a lot of money to National Student Aid Care. 

"So I gave them my account information and they took a $198.75 out of my account for July, August, September, and October," she said.

Thompson says those nearly $200 a month installments were never sent to Great Lakes.

"I called them, I sent them a letter, I have not received an answer. They hung up on me when I called them," she said.

Federal and state officials cracked down on National Student Aid Care for "falsely promising debt relief." 

"They just, they scammed me is what they've done," she said.

"You should never give money upfront waiting for money in return," said Tony Binkley with the Better Business Bureau.

Binkley said  when someone like Lindsey Thompson pays for a service but the company never produces any results that is a variation of what's called an "advance fee scam." 

"Everybody promises to give you money once you give them upfront. That's something you should never do in any circumstance," Binkley said. "You are going to come out on the losing end."

Lindsey has stopped paying the $198 a month to National Student Aid Care. She has gotten in touch with her initial student loan servicing company. 

"They should contact the company they had the loan with. That number is typically on their statement. If they can't go there, go to www.studentaid.gov/repay and get some help there as well," Binkley said.

Thompson has also contacted the Federal Trade Commission about National Student Aid Care.

"I just want my money back. That's all I want. So I can pay on my student loan," she said.

WATE 6 On Your Side tried to contact National Student Aid Center but there's been no response. The company has an F rating from the Better Business Bureau.

If you are seeking forbearance, a lower monthly student loan payment, if an agency says to send money first, don't do it. The best advice is to contact your loan service provider about lower payments or go to  www.studentaid.gov/repay.


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