In January 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sued the nation’s largest servicer for federal and private student loans. The reason behind the lawsuit was for systematically and illegally failing borrowers and each point of the repayment process.
Navient, which used to be a portion of Sallie Mae, purposely created obstacles within the repayment system and provided wrongful information. They also processed payments incorrectly and didn’t act when a borrower complained.
CFPB Director Richard Cordray said,“Navient failed consumers who counted on the company to help give them a fair chance to pay back their student loans.” Basically, they chose to shortcut and deceive customers in order to save on operating costs. This lawsuit is an effort to make them accountable for these actions.
So how might your student loan servicer be cheating you?
Misapplied Student Loan Payments
Another way that your servicer could cheat you would be to only direct your payments to your account with the lowest interest rate. This may not even be corrupt in concept. In reality, the student loan servicers’ payment processing system may just not be set up in your best interest.
In order to try and fix this, you may have to call in to speak with your servicer to make sure any excess is paid off in the right manner. If your loan is around $100 but you’re trying to pay $300 each month, make sure the extra $200 is going where you want it to go. Also keep up with your original paperwork and document every conversation, canceled check, loan payment, or bank statement for direct payment.
Disappearing Student Loans
If you are repaying student loans issued from a private bank, it is possible that when you log in to check your account you will see that the balance has suddenly dropped to $0, despite the fact that you owe a balance. When this happens, it means that your student loans may have been sold to a new owner and your servicer has changed.
Most servicers will let you know if your loans have been sold, but it’s possible that there could be some lag time between the action and the notice. It’s also possible that you may not get your bill in time if they haven’t contacted you. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. In fact, it could be quite the opposite.
If this happens to you, reach out to your student loan servicer to ask about the new balance. Check with the National Student Loan Data System to make sure the updated information has also been transferred with your loan. Then, use a free credit report to see if your new servicer has reported the transfer.
If you let this slide, it’s possible that you could be charged a fee for a late payment even though you had an automatic payment set up with the previous provider, or you were waiting on a new bill.
Student Loan Balances That Reappear
Sometimes, a student loan balance will mysteriously come back from the dead. Let’s say you just paid off your student loan, but your servicer says you still owe another $1,000 on the debt. This isn’t a common accounting error, but it could happen. By keeping documented bank records, you can eradicate this problem.
Even taking screenshots on your phone or computer will work to prove that you’ve paid off the correct amount. Make sure not to crop out dates or times of any important payment information when organizing your paperwork.
Stalled Application For Payment Adjustment
When you change your payment plan, such as dropping a forbearance to switch to an income-based plan, there can often be problems from servicers. Do your part by sending in all of the required documents and make sure the application is processed correctly. Don’t change any scheduled payments until adjustments have been made.
Sometimes, it’s best to do this over the phone to make sure all paperwork has been received and then ask for a email or other form of written confirmation. If you do this online, but don’t receive a conformation, call and confirm.
Going Above The Law
If the methods above do not work with your servicer, there are always other options to get your paperwork or loan in the right hands. If your servicer simply won’t work with you, shop around for someone with a better interest rate. This way, you can consolidate loans and even reduce your monthly payment.
If your servicer seems to be treating you and others unfairly, there is also a way to submit a complaint to the CFPB. Simply visit their website and submit a complaint. According to their homepage, 97 percent of consumers receive a timely response and they’ve handled over 1 million complaints from consumers.
Jacob Evans runs his own personal finance blog over at Dollar Diligence. Through meticulously watching his money and extreme frugality, he was able to pay down over $25k in student loan debt in just 15 months.