Beware Of Private Student Loan “Validation” Relief Companies

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I recently received an email from someone I know, asking about “student loan dispute” companies. They had received a call from one of these companies and were interested to know my thoughts. I’ve removed this person’s name, but have posted my email in full in case anyone is interested in my thoughts about these types of companies, which have become more prevalent in the last couple years. I also believe that many of them are piggybacking on the hype generated by the news stories about the National Collegiate Trust and their inability to provide loan related documents during some their lawsuits against borrowers. Several of these companies also appear to use private loan settlement as a fallback option, which is usually hidden deep in the fine print of their contracts. 

My full response:

I think the first red flag here is that this company reached out to you and not vice versa. How do you think they got your contact information?
 
I’ve seen several of these types of companies pop up in the last few years, and overall I’m not a fan. They make broad promises about disputing student loans with a sales pitch that goes along the lines of, “due to all the regulatory actions against student loan companies and they way they handle loans, we can get your loans dismissed by making them prove that they own the loans and they don’t have all the paperwork” etc etc.
 
The problem is that most people don’t realize the threshold for FDCPA Validation, one of the dispute tactics they use, is very easy to meet; and in most states is only required of third party debt collectors. 
 
The only way this works is with a private lender like the National Collegiate Trust who has bought private loan portfolios many times, and may not actually  have the paperwork to back them up in every case. This would require an experienced student loan attorney and it would also require that the lender actually take the borrower to court first.
 
It is common for law firms to pose as “fronts” in the debt relief industry because law firms are allowed to collect upfront fees. 
 
I recently had a client sign on this week who has paid multiple thousands to one of these types of firms. They sent very elaborate letters making all types of legalistic demands from her student loan lenders. But the student loan lenders have not complied with any of the demands, probably because they don’t legally have to, and the company seems to have no way to enforce their demands. So this person paid $6,000 for a bunch of letters that have had zero effect. I’m going to try to help her get their money back from them but it’s going to be an uphill battle. They signed on with me for private student loan settlement after realizing the other process wasn’t going to make her private loans go away. 
 
I’d be very cautious about doing business with these types of companies. If there was a way to broadly dispute student loans in a way that had them cancelled, I’d be doing it.. but there just isn’t in my opinion. These companies are starting to get on the radar of the regulators who are pursuing them for false statements and deceptive marketing: https://getoutofdebt.org/104934/cfpb-sues-federal-debt-assistance-association-debt-validation-program
 
For further research you may want to look up FDCPA Validation and read what the actual requirements are, as this is usually one of the laws that these companies claim to utilize to invalidate debts. For examples of what it takes to really dispute an NCT student loan during litigation, you can read more here: http://time.com/money/4862823/private-student-loans-missing-paperwork-lawsuit/
 
There is also a law known as the TCPA, and TCPA attorneys pursue lenders for violations of calling cell phones with up to $500 per violation, sometimes resulting in a significant reduction in student loans. But this requires the borrower to have revoked permission for the lender to call them and many lenders have now adjusted to this potential legal threat: https://www.mccarter.com/TCPA-The-Next-Wave-of-Class-Action-Lawsuits-Asserts-Consumers-Right-to-Withdraw-Consent-to-Receive-Text-Messages-02-14-2017/
 
Other than that I’m not aware of any method of disputing student loans with a high success rate. I’d recommend also talking to a licensed student loan attorney in your state: https://thestudentloanlawyer.com/workshop-graduates/

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About Andrew Weber, NACCC Certified Student Loan Counselor

Andrew Weber is a NACCC Certified Credit Counselor and a NACCC Certified Student Loan Counselor. He is the only certified student loan Counselor who specializes exclusively on private student loan issues in the US. He's helped over 2,500 borrowers drastically reduce their debts.

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