A new database of horror stories about unpaid student loan debt is giving collective voice to victims of corrupt student-debt collectors, shining a light on repeat offenders and helping others avoid them.
Abusive collectors of student debt—and there are many—range from those who dramatically inflate the amount owed, to those who hound people for debts they’ve already paid. At Twitter’s #studentdebtstress, and on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s database of debt complaints, people describe collection agencies that have illegally removed federal loans from deferment, seized inaccurate payments from tax returns and canceled automatic payments without notification. Debtors tell of endless telephone calls—56 in one week, by one person’s account—harassing them to pay up. They’ve been charged unfair and incorrect fees based on debt collectors’ accounting errors, and threatened with low credit ratings based on false information.
The stories are not just an opportunity to air frustrations. Instead, suggests the CFPB, “one complaint can help millions” by warning other consumers about bad actors among the collection agencies. The database of complaints is searchable, so consumers can look up particular agencies or particular kinds of loans. Personal information is redacted.
More than 40 million Americans owe money on their student loans, and the CFPB notes that such debt can delay home purchases, marriage and children, and retirement. Check out their stories at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaintdatabase.