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ns of people went to Dallas-based Student Relief for help with debt, they were let down.
Sherrie Fuller was one of them. She received a masters degree in while raising six kids.
“For me, my , you can do this no matter the obstacles you face,” said Fuller.
She owed more than $100,000 in loans after graduating from the University of Phoenix.
“They were in transition from one lender to another,” said Fuller.
Fuller said she contacted Student Loan Relief for help and at first the company worked to get her payments to a lower amount.
According to the website, Relief: “offers an affordable way to make your Federal Student Loan debt easier to manage. …work with you to identify the best combination of Federal, State, and/or Local programs for which you qualify….We currently with more than 300 different programs, created from 233 Congressional bills, that can reduce your principal balance, lower your interest…”
The problems came later when the company drafted her account but didn’t pay the lender.
“I’m making duplicate payments, I was a nervous wreck,” said Fuller.
Sherrie said she dropped the company after it happened — twice.
“Not only am I making the , I’m paying you to do this. They were collecting a fee. They are doing their legwork, I can understand paying for their service but I wasn’t getting anything but a headache,” said Fuller.
Another woman who turned to and CEO Jason Spencer for help was Michelle Ridgley.
She owed more than $60,000 in student for her two degrees, including a master’s degree in public policy.
Ridgley was working for a non-profit at the time.
“He (the representative) said, ‘Hey how would you feel about $46 a month? I could do $46 a month, who couldn’t do $46 dollars a month,” said Ridgley.
Ridgley thought that $46 was going to pay down her loans.
“My loans. I mean honestly, even though some people might be like $46 a month but yes. You’re working with someone, the paperwork looks legitimate, you have a colleague that’s utilizing the service,” said Ridgley.
Ridgley said she learned the money was actually the monthly fee going to Student Loan Relief.
She said her loans were actually in forbearance collecting interest — now she owes $90,000.
“I’m so stupid for taking that chance,” said Ridgley.
Ridgley, Fuller and 30 others citing similar issues have filed complaints with the Dallas Better Business Bureau about the company.
The have an F rating and 26 unanswered complaints.
“The complainants are telling us, people are paying the fee but their student loans aren’t paid,” said Phylissa Landix of the Dallas BBB.
Student Loan Relief CEO Jason Spencer agreed to talk to CBS11’s Cristin Severance from his Dallas .
“Sherrie Fuller was by far the most work this company has ever done,” said Spencer.
He said his company has helped Fuller and 4,000 other find programs to lower their loan payments.
“I’m not just sitting here putting people into consolidations,” said Spencer.
When asked why there were many unanswered complaints with the BBB, Spencer admitted, “I’m ashamed to say it. I’m a wimp. I get on there and it beats me down.”
Spencer struggled to compose himself throughout the interview.
“You try so hard and to see people on there lying. Maybe that’s a good enough answer,” said Spencer as he wept.
When asked if he was upset about the BBB complaints Spencer replied, “This is what it does to me. And so I don’t want to feel like this.”
Spencer then said was only able to get through reading one complaint.
CBS11 wanted to know if the thought his former clients were lying.
Spencer answered that he hasn’t “read them all.”
The government has taken action on similar debt relief in the country.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau put out a warning about companies charging an upfront fee to lower student loan payments and shut down two companies in Florida in 2014.
Spencer said bad companies have popped up preying on borrowers but he’s not one of them.
“They are scumbags, they are phone-based scumbags. If I was bad, I’d be shut down a long time ago,” said Spencer.
However, some of things Spencer told CBS11 didn’t add up.
Spencer claimed he’s a nonprofit organization during the interview but he’s not registered as one with the IRS.
Student Loan Relief was listed as a “for-profit” corporation according to filings on the Texas Secretary of State’s website.
When Justice investigator Cristin Severance asked Spencer about why his Dallas office was empty, he claimed to have let go his 58 employees.
Spencer said he now relies on one and artificial intelligence to do the work but his website promises a “real person with real knowledge of your specific needs”.
Spencer did not return follow-up emails from CBS11 after his interview to clarify the non-profit issue or the number of employees he has on reducing loans.
“I make mistakes, I make more mistakes than anyone I’ve ever met,” said Spencer.
He said while the company helped Fuller, they also made a mistake with her account.
“The new system drafted her twice and I sent her a check yesterday after looking into it for this interview,” said Spencer.
Spencer said in Ridgley’s case, some of her payments never even went through.
“We still did the work and didn’t get paid,” said Spencer.
Spencer insisted he hasn’t done anything to scam people and lost everything trying to do the opposite.
“Lost my wife over it, lost all my friends, lost touch with all my family,” said Spencer.
Ridgley admitted a few payments didn’t go through but contends she was not told about the fee and her loan amount still went up.
Fuller said in the end, the collections agency was more helpful and easier to get in contact with than Student Loan Relief.
“You can do all this by yourself and not a dime and make sure it’s getting done,” said Fuller.
(WRIC) — Many of us have student loans to pay off and you may be desperate to lower those monthly payments.
Scammers know this and 8News has uncovered they’re preying on your vulnerability.
It’s that time of year when thousands of students here in Virginia alone are graduating college. They’ll walk away with a diploma and, for many, big debt.
Four years of college tuition can now cost as much as a house. If that isn’t troubling enough, now you have to worry about con-artists looking to cash in on your concerns.
“When you are vulnerable is when bad decisions happen.”
Tom Gallagher, president of Central Virginia’s Better Business Bureau (BBB), says as college tuition costs skyrocket, so have complaints of student loan repayment scams.
8News began digging into the issue after two viewers reached out to us, fearing they may have been duped. The women — one, who even works for a bank — did not wish to go camera, but shared their documents with 8News.
They got an email promising to “lower their principal, lower their interest and reduce payments.”
The company “Student Loan Relief, Inc.” claims in emails and on it’s website to work “alongside the U.S. Department of Education.” The email boasts to have an “A-rating and no complaints from the BBB.”
It looked good to the ladies desperate for help with their student loans. But the women, who have been paying student loan relief $23 a month since 2012, say they became suspicious of the repayment service when they realized they hadn’t made much of dent in their debt.
They say that while they paid that monthly service fee, they never got any loan relief in return.
That A-rating with the BBB couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Anything that sounds too good to be true, is too good to be true,” Gallagher said.
8News plugged in the business name and found student loan relief gets an “F.”
“As of right now we have 17 complaints against them, a lot of them are unanswered,” Gallagher said.
8News also reached out to the U.S. Department of Education. We were told in an email, despite the companies claims, that “the U.S. Department of Education is not affiliated with Student Loan Relief, Inc.”
We called and we emailed Student Loan Relief’s CEO Jason Spencer for two weeks straight. Finally, on the way to another story, he called back. We pulled over to take the call. We asked about those claims to work with the U.S. Department of Education.
“I reached out the Department of Education and they say they are not in anyway affiliated with Student Loan Relief,” 8News investigative reporter Kerri O’Brien said. “Don’t you think putting on literature that you mail out, email out or on your website saying you are affiliated or work along the Department of Education is misleading?”
Spencer told 8Newss he doesn’t think there is anything wrong with referencing the U.S. Department of Education on the company’s website, because student loan relief contacts the Dept. of Education to buy out clients loans.
Spencer then agreed to do a Skype interview with us the next day. We were there ready to go, but he stood us up.
In an email later, Spencer told us quote: “No, were not a scam. We have been in business for 4 years now and have helped thousands of clients.”
He goes on to tell 8News his company is no longer taking on new business because it has reached “max capacity” and that “we currently have a back log of more than 30,000 American citizens that have asked us to take them on as clients.”
Spencer also told us he makes no money doing this and that Student Loan Relief is a non-profit. But we checked with the IRS, Guidestar and the Texas Secretary of State, where the company is based, and there’s no record of it.
Scam or not, the Department of Education says companies using sophisticated marketing tactics to entice borrower’s is a big problem.
Just a few weeks ago, Illnois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against five loan repayment companies who she says allegedly used false promises to dupe borrowers.
“All of these people when they turn to the scammers they are desperate and unaware of the free legitimate information and assistant that is available,” A.G. Madigan said.
So what can you do? At the U.S. Department of Education’s website, you can find links to information about free services. Click here for more information.
And Gallagher says research the company offering help. Before you agree to anything, he advises you contact your current lender.
“Most of the time, the payment schedule can be worked out by contacting your lender anyhow,” Gallagher said.
We’re told it can be tough to go after scammers because often when they get in trouble the close up shop and then just open under a new name.
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud you are advised to report it to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Click here for more on that.
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