Beware of Remote Work Job Scams

October 28, 2021 ~

Thanks to the good work by companies out there keeping an eye on security aspects of the web and its reach, a new internet scam has been uncovered.

Wordfence is one such company, providing WordPress website developers with software that protects WordPress-built websites (about 40% of all websites on the web1) from hacking. Mark Maunder, Wordfence Founder & CEO, has veered a bit from his usual ‘lane’ and published a post that is concerning to remote work job seekers.

The latest scam involves using the names and likenesses of legitimate companies and offering ‘remote work’ opportunities. Long story short, beware of directly replying to a job on a job board. Instead, go to the company’s website and find the job posting there.

This version of the scam involves the scammers getting some of your personal information, and then conduct an ‘interview’ over Skype, direct messaging, or such. The applicant is offered the job, then sent a ‘check’ to deposit or cash (that will eventually bounce) and buy office furniture and/or supplies at a ‘preferred’ supplier that is actually linked to the scammers. The goal is to either get the money via the furniture purchases, or collecting enough personal information that they can steal your identity. Ugh.

The full post gives you some tools for avoiding this scam, first and foremost, visit the actual company website to view their job listings.

Read the complete post about the remote work scam on the WordFence website.

~KP

PS I use the free version of the WordFence plugin, and subscribe to their email updates.

1. WordPress market share resource: https://kinsta.com/wordpress-market-share/

US Department of Ed to Help 550,000 Borrowers

October 6, 2021 –
The US Department of Education has revised some rules and made what they term “transformational changes” to the Public Services Loan Forgiveness program, first created in 2007.

In recent years, it has been extremely hard for graduates to get proper loan forgiveness of their Federal Direct Loan(s) for their commitment to work full time in public service for 10 years while making 120 on-time payments to those loans. Reportedly, since 2017 when borrowers first became eligible for the forgiveness, only 2% of participants were being granted the forgiveness(1). That is unacceptable.

According to the press release, some folks will automatically receive the forgiveness, and others may have to supply some additional verification:

This policy will result in 22,000 borrowers who have consolidated loans—including previously ineligible loans—being immediately eligible for $1.74 billion in forgiveness without the need for further action on their part. Another 27,000 borrowers could potentially qualify for an additional $2.82 billion in forgiveness if they certify additional periods of employment.

All told, the Department estimates that over 550,000 borrowers who have previously consolidated will see an increase in qualifying payments with the average borrower receiving another two years of progress toward forgiveness. Many more will also see progress as borrowers consolidate into the Direct Loan program and apply for PSLF, and as the Department rolls out other changes in the weeks and months ahead.

Other changes being made include more leniency on certain certification aspects like, being  few days late on a payment, or a few cents under the amount, that formerly would cause someone to be deemed ineligible.

From what we gather, as a Federal Direct Loan borrower, you should not need to do anything special to get your application re-reviewed. The US DOE says it will reach out directly to borrowers. The one thing you CAN do is make sure your contact information is current with them at StudentAid.gov.

Federal Student Aid will make more information available to borrowers at StudentAid.gov/PSLFWaiver. In the coming weeks and months, the Department will communicate directly with borrowers about these changes to PSLF to help borrowers understand how they may benefit and any actions they may need to take. Borrowers should ensure that they have accounts on StudentAid.gov and that their contact information there is up to date.

BUT… if you have a different type of federal loan (Perkins, FFEL, etc.), you are also being included in this order, but need to apply for a waiver by October 31, 2022 — so a year away.

A limited PSLF waiver that allows all payments by student borrowers to count toward PSLF, regardless of loan program or payment plan. This waiver will allow student borrowers to count all payments made on loans from the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program or Perkins Loan Program. It will also waive restrictions on the type of repayment plan and the requirement that payments be made in the full amount and on-time for all borrowers. To receive these benefits, borrowers will have to submit a PSLF form by October 31, 2022, which is a single application used to certify employment and evaluate a borrower for forgiveness.

Other resources used in this article:
* (1) New Data Shows Most Who Apply To This Student Loan Forgiveness Program Are Denied, Forbes: June 14, 2021
StudentAid.gov Data Center Loan Forgiveness Program
* US Department of Education Press Release
US DOE Loan Forgiveness Overhaul Fact Sheet
* NPR story
How to Qualify for PLSF – US DOE
Limited PLSF Loan Waiver – Student Aid.gov (for non-Direct Loans)

 

2022-2023 FAFSA Now Available – First Come, First Served

Just released October 1, 2021 is the 2022-2023 Academic Year Free Application for Federal Student Aid form!

Are you even THINKING about going back to school in the Fall of 2022? The time is NOW to get your financial aid forms submitted. Can you believe it? That may seem like a long way out, but it is much easier to cancel aid than try to apply for and receive it next summer.

We recommend that ALL students fill out this form. It is the key to unlocking aid you my not have known existed, or that you may not have felt you qualify for. You don’t know unless you try!

We recommend that you fill out the form as soon as possible as some states run out of funding early. First come, First served.

Visit the Federal Student Aid home page to get started on this years FAFSA.

The IRS provides a “quick and convenient” way to access your tax info using their IRS Data Retrieval Tool, and while it can save you time and ensure accuracy, if you use the retrieval tool, you will not be able to see or edit the data entered on the website. I guess this is a security feature…? If you manually enter the info, you can see and change it.

Also note the FREE part — you do not need to pay anything to acquire or submit the form — unless, of course, you choose to pay someone to consult or help you prepare it.

Just as in years past, there is only a fixed amount of money to go around, so get your application in as soon as possible because the phrase “first come, first served” is very much in play.

But… also keep in mind that the first offer of student aid may not always be the full amount you end up qualifying for!  At some institutions, money frees up later in the academic year as certain students (who were offered financial packages) choose to go to a different school. That money returns to the particular school and is made available to whomever comes asking for it. So, in effect, your student aid can be a year-round effort if you are constantly asking the financial aid office at your school “is there anything else

Beware of your Loan Forgiveness Program!

3 Steps to Help Ensure You’re Compliant

Hands-Money Photo by Alexander Mils on UnsplashUPDATE October 6, 2021: See our updated post as the US DOE has made tremendous strides toward FIXING this problem!!!

It has come to light that since 2017, thousands of former students who participated with full faith and effort in the US Education Department's various loan forgiveness programs — such as working as an inner-city teacher or rural doctor — have gotten "stiffed" on their loan forgiveness applications. Some people have been told they haven’t made the required 120 consecutive on-time payments, even though they have. Some have been told their employment doesn’t qualify, even after being reassured at time of hire that it did.

It’s a sticky situation that started coming to light in 2017, ten years after the program (passed in 2007 by the US Congress and enacted by President George W. Bush) began when the forgiveness time came due. Many borrowers found that due to lack of oversight, important information about their loan payments or work history did not get recorded properly, and their loan forgiveness was denied.

What Should I Do?

If you are currently or planning to take advantage of one of the loan forgiveness programs, we suggest  you:

  1. Log on to the National Student Loan Data System to ensure that your loan record is correct.
  2. Make sure that you keep your Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification (PDF) current. Clark Howard (consumer advocate hero!) suggests that you file this form each year. Can’t hurt!
  3. Visit the Public Service Loan Forgiveness page and tool
    to see if there is an option for you there. Currently (2019), they show an alert that there is a temporary loan forgiveness program available for some loans. Go now... first come, first served! Warning: You need to apply for the main loan forgiveness program BEFORE applying for the temporary emergency program.

    (9/9/19 note: The US government's General Accounting Office released a report that the US Department of Education is denying over 99% of applications for the temporary program. This is so wrong. All we can say is to apply anyway, be very patient, expect to get denied, and hopefully by the time you appeal the politicians will have a fix. See below for links to find your federal legislature to contact them about this atrocity.)

If you currently do not qualify, you should try to identify and speak to your loan officer, or some other representative from the lender/servicing company to see if they have any options for you. If you don’t know who that is, you can reach out to your former school’s financial aid office and they should be able to help trace your loan.

One suggestion is to consolidate your loans and change it to one of the available income-driven repayment plans which may be available for forgiveness. NOTE: This may reset the 120 month timer, so this option would be better for recent graduates. If you choose this option, know that debt consolidation is a free service. There a several marketers who try to sell you their loan consolidation services for a fee. Know that you are paying for their service, not any fees in connection to the loan consolidation.

Another suggestion is to try to wait it out. The current administration has indicated in their 2020 Budget Proposal a desire to end the forgiveness program (as well as subsidized loans in general) to save the government money. While this is not a guaranteed eventuality as Congress will insert their politics, the intent of the current administration is clear — the students of today don't matter. A new administration may well keep the programs which have allowed so many students to prosper — and contribute long term to the economy! (Just our opinion.)

What Can I Do?

Meanwhile, if you’re the activist type, go ahead and submit your opinion about the future of student loan programs. Here are some links:

US Student Aid feedback
"We want to hear from you about your federal student aid experience."

Raw source for current regulations open to comment on "student aid forgive"

Find your federal legislator (and write them a letter/send an email!):
US House of Representatives
US Senate

US Government Student Loan Forgiveness Statistics

Student Loan Information Resources

NerdWallet 10+ Student Loan Forgiveness, Cancellation and Discharge Programs

Forbes magazine Student Loan info

Resources pulled from Clark.com:

*Note the suggestions in this article are for general information only. Contact your financial professional for advice specific to your situation.

2018-2019 FAFSA Form now available

First come, firs served for federal student aid. Don’t miss out! Get your application in early!

Dollar SignAre you even THINKING about going back to school in the Fall of 2018? The time is NOW to get your financial aid forms submitted. Can you believe it? That may seem like a long way out, but it is way easier to cancel aid than try to apply for and receive it next summer.

In order to allow folks more time to fill our their annual Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form, it is now made available online on October 1 of the year prior to need.

We recommend that ALL students fill out this form. It is the key to unlocking aid you my not have known existed, or that you may not have felt you qualify for. You don’t know unless you try!

We recommend that you fill out the form as soon as possible as some states run out of funding early. First come, First served.

Visit the Federal Student Aid home page to get started on this years FAFSA.

The 2018-2019 enrollment period has also reactivated access the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. (It closed in early 2017 for security reasons.) If you choose to link to your IRS account via this tool, this can save you time and ensure accuracy. Note that if you use the retrieval tool, you will not be able to see or edit the data entered on the website. I guess this is a security feature. If you manually enter the info, you can see and change it.