Email Scams: Don’t Get Duped

Update for February 2013:

You may have received an email from the Direct Loan Servicing Center about your loan being transferred to Sallie Mae. Don’t worry – this email is legit. (assuming the sender’s domain is correct – see screenshot below)

My own student loan was transferred at the beginning of this month (Feb. 2013), and I received the email. I called the Department of Education personally to verify that the email came from them, and they affirmed it.

For reference, here is a screenshot of the email I received:

Loan Transfer
If you have any specific questions, feel free to leave a comment on this post and I’ll get back to you.

—————–

Original Aug. 2011 article:

Correction: If you viewed this post in the past, you probably saw that I had posted a specific email that I previously believed to be a scam. The email referred to a change in the way that the government is handling Direct Loan processing. It turns out the email was indeed not a scam, though it was a very poor and sloppily executed message that looked a lot like one.

Just for clarification, the federal government will indeed be changing the borrower website to myedaccount.com. You can view the official announcement for the change here.

Message to the Direct Loans office: You suck at notifications. Get better at it. Here are just a couple reasons why your email was absolutely terrible:

  • MyEdAccount.com doesn’t even have a “coming soon” message on it or anything. If you’re going to tell people about it, you better damn well have some sort of message up until the site launches. Any 12-year old kid playing with HTML would know that.
  • Send the email from the domain people are familiar with. Sending the email from the new domain (which, again, we can’t even visit) REEKS of scam. How are you this stupid?

Thanks to some of the commenters down below for pointing this out to me. If you’ve gotten this email, I’ll repeat that it is legit. It just sucks.

Update 10/18: Looks like I’m not the only one who’s pissed. Check out this article at The Consumerist (and the comments) as well as the reactions going around Twitter to see just how epic the Dept. of Education’s failure with this transition is.

Update 10/26: I’m still following this situation, so if you’d like to stay updated, you can follow me on Twitter and I’ll keep you informed.


Alright, back to the article. Here are some ways you can spot and avoid email scams:

Pay Attention to the Sender

Make sure to always look at who sent you an email. Scammers are getting more and more sneaky every day, and more often than not, the emails they send will look legit. However, they’re going to have a pretty hard time sending you an email from the actual domain name they’re trying to trick you with.

If you get an email about direct loans, make sure it’s from dl.ed.gov. If it’s about PayPal, make sure the email’s from paypal.com. Always take a good look at the email address; there are several things scammers do to make the URL look legit:

  • Some URL’s look very similar to the legit one. For example, you could see paypall.com – this is a common misspelling, and you probably wouldn’t catch it with a casual glance. People who use common misspellings are called typo squatters,  and people fall victim to them all the time. Don’t be one of them.
  • Scammers will sometimes create subdomains with the names of real websites. For example, you might see something like paypal.herpderp.com – a subdomain can be named anything the scammer wants it to be. Once again – if you just give the URL a quick once-over, you may see “paypal” and skip over the rest. Be careful.

Be Wary of Links in Emails

Just as you need to be careful to check the domain of the sender’s email, be very careful to check links in the body of the email. In particular, be wary of shortened links – you know, stuff from bit.ly, tinyurl.com, and other sites. If you find a shortened link in an email and you’re just too curious to let it go straight to the trash bin, use Where Does This Link Go to expand the link so you can see the actual URL. You may want to bookmark it for quick reference.

Scumbag Steve

Maintain a Healthy Pessimist’s Attitude

You’re not going to get free money from Nigeria, you can’t become a mystery shopper overnight and get free stuff from all your favorite stores, and you can’t make $8,000 a month filling out surveys online. Maintain a skeptical attitude when looking at your email – if something seems to good to be true, then that something was created by someone who wouldn’t think twice about dumping you on the side of the road and selling your dog for crack money.

Check out these resources for more info:

Have you ever been duped? Share your tips in the comments and help put scammers where they belong – still in their mom’s basement.

Thomas Frank is the geek behind College Info Geek and a wannabe pinball wizard (← as well as). After paying off $14K in student loans, landing jobs and internships, starting a successful business, and travelling the globe, he's now on a mission to help you build a remarkable college experience as well. Get the Newsletter | Twitter | Facebook

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44 Comments:
  1. Sheesh. I JUST received an email about my student loan that made me highly suspicious, several months after you first posted about this. (So thanks for letting me know it is in fact legit!) The FSA logo at the top looks out of proportion, it was sent from the directloanservicingcenter.org domain which is still empty, and it tells me to log in to myedaccount.com, whereas previously it had always been a .gov site. So I went directly to what I knew to be the real Direct Loans website at http://www.direct.ed.gov/ and clicked on Direct Loan Servicing…and found myself looking at this mess: https://www.dl.ed.gov/borrower/BorrowerWelcomePage.jsp (broken image, html tag showing at the bottom) before being redirected to myedaccount.com. This does not tend to reassure one that there’s nothing fishy going on!

    • Yeah, it’s been a pretty terrible transition. I feel really sorry for all the people who actually had to pay for their loans during that time…

  2. After reading some of the older comments made by other people I wanted to make another comment and go to bat for Mr. Frank.

    First, I personally didn’t see the email when it was sent out. I tend to “cherry pick” my personal email account and sometimes important emails slip by me.

    Even if I did see the email back on Sept. 7th when I received it, I probably wouldn’t have remembered it more than 3 months later when receiving an automated phone call that looked and sounded like a scam itself.

    Second, the email did seem scammy to me for all the reasons pointed out already.

    Third, did I mention the automated phone calls that are now going out? Even if one saw the email 3 months prior they still wouldn’t be able to know what is going on without researching it online or something.

    Has anyone else got one of these phone calls and then had to research it online to find this web site to figure out what is going on?

    • Thanks for the support, TC. I can’t say that I’ve received any automated phone calls so far, but I do know that the Direct Loans office has handled this whole transition very poorly. If a private business were to transition this way, they would be out of business by now.

  3. OMFG! Looks like automated phone calls are also being made that are incredibly unprofessional, concerning and “scammy” sounding.

    I just got a phone call from “UNKNOWN” so of course I didn’t answer it.

    Then, the voice mail left doesn’t identify who is calling, informs me that my bank account will be billed automatically the first business day after my bill is due (doesn’t say for what), and that if I have questions call the 800 number or goto a .COM address that I couldn’t make out.

    Fortunately when I googled the phone number I found this site that actually explains what’s going on (thank you) as well as some other results in google that could very well be ACTUAL scams created in the wake of the DOE’s carelessness.

    Thanks for giving me a place to vent as well as to let others know that automated phone calls are being made from caller “unknown”

  4. This whole thing was a giant cluster %@$#. I hope somebody lost their job over this

    • It’s true – this was a really bad migration. Pretty much everything went wrong. You know you did a bad job when the first result in Google for your new site is a blog post saying how bad it is…

      Judging from the dwindling traffic to this post, however, I think they’re starting to get the issues sorted out. I really hope nobody got screwed with their interest payments over this :(

  5. I’m being affected by this piece of crap myedaccount.com and its not fair. They are already making a profit off my hardwork at school while illegally collecting income tax from me, now they won’t even give me credit for payments made.

    They should be making it easier for us, not harder. Great article.

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