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Victim of student loan scams? Illinois takes action

University Of California BerkeleyUniversity Of California Berkeley

Illinois became the first state on Monday to target debt-settlement firms that allegedly scam students seeking relief for unpaid loans.

Lisa Madigan, the Illinois attorney general, filed two lawsuits targeting firms that charge as much as $1,200 upfront to help students with loan repayment problems. The suits target Broadsword Student Advantage in Frisco, Texas and First American Tax Defense of Park Ridge, Illinois.

The suit suits alleges that the companies fraudulently promised to help students with lowering monthly payments and getting loans out of default. In fact, the companies had no way to do so and merely filed applications on behalf of clients for federal borrower help programs, which are available for free online, according to the lawsuit.

“These companies illegally charge fees for services that student loan borrowers can obtain themselves through government programs at no cost,” said Madigan in a statement. “My office will be aggressive in cracking down on scam operations that prey on student loan borrowers for profit.”

Madigan also said on her website that students should never need to “pay upfront for help with student loan debt relief.” For information on legitimate sources of free assistance, her office advised contacting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or the National Consumer Law Center.

With over $1 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. currently, more regulators are expected to take on firms suspected of financial scams against students.