KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — At the end of August, the payment pause for federal student loans is about to expire. Shortly after the pandemic began two years ago, loan payments were put on hold.

In Tennessee, graduates know all about student loans. Over 50% of Tennessee graduates in the class of 2020 took out student loans to pay for school, with an average debt of nearly $27,000. This has led many to try and take advantage of those trying to get out of debt.

WATE’s Don Dare recently received an unsolicited call on his office phone at Greystone.

“Hello, this is a message from the Student Loan Forgiveness Center of Tennessee. As you may know, the forbearance period ends soon as payments may begin to resume,” said the voice on the phone.

Dare used the GI Bill to cover the costs of his degree at the University of Georgia. Therefore receiving a call from the Student Loan Forgiveness Center of Tennessee was surprising.

“The reason we are calling is because your student loan is eligible for a forgiveness program. We need your authorization to complete the process. Please call our office located in Tennessee at 423… BEEP,” the call continued.

Dare took the recording to Tony Binkley at the Better Business Bureau of Greater East Tennessee. He called that local 423 number, supposedly located in Tennessee.

“One of the questions I did ask during our conversation is are you located in Tennessee? They said, no, we’re in Irvine, California. They are a real business with a real address. However, their website is very suspect. It’s very, very simple. It’s hard to get somebody on the phone. There were just a lot of red flags for up for me,” said Binkley.

“If you had a student loan, would you work through this company?” asked Dare.

“Absolutely not. At some point, they are going to ask you for money. That’s the way they stay in business, that’s the way they survive. They going to ask you for money at some point. You can go directly to your lender, your student loan provider, or you can go to student aid resources on the government’s website to find out more information. You can get that information for free,” answered Binkley.

The bottom line here is to be careful with a call like this.

“When somebody is contacting you out of the blue, this is dialing for dollars. They’re just dialing up anybody they can. Hopefully, they’ll get a hit, somebody who actually does have a student loan – someone younger than you or me — hoping they can prey on the knowledge that they don’t have,” said Binkley.

There are legitimate student loan forgiveness programs that won’t cost you a dime. For example, the U.S. Department of Education offers legitimate student loan forgiveness programs, as well as ways to lower your student loan payments. The best thing is that they’re free to apply through your official loan servicer.

Remember this though, if you receive a debt relief offer that seems “too good to be true,” it probably is.

A few weeks ago, President Biden said another extension of the student loan payment pause, which is set to expire at the end of August, is on the table and a decision is expected soon. This is one reason why you may be getting a call, regardless of how long ago you may have been in school.