student loan forgiveness scamStudent loan debt is a hot topic in the U.S., and it doesn’t take much to understand why. Approximately 40 million Americans now owe over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, a number that far outstrips credit card debt. If the high amount owed wasn’t alarming enough, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nearly 8 million Americans (or one in five) are currently in default on their loans. Students are graduating with crushing debts and struggling to make ends meet as they try to balance payments with the cost of living. It’s no wonder that even the less gullible among us might jump for joy at the chance to have this debt erased completely without having to lift a finger. Unfortunately, that kind of desperation is what the scammers perpetuating a new student loan forgiveness scam are hoping to take advantage of.

Where can I spot these student loan forgiveness scams?

Sometimes they arrive to your house or email inbox as letters, other times you might spot a post on social media advertising fast and easy forgiveness of your student loans. Often, they will claim this is possible because of a new program or policy from the government. No matter how the advertisement reaches you or what it claims, it’s important to recognize this scam for what it is and not let yourself be lured in by a too-good-to-be-true offer. As nice as it would be if student loan forgiveness could be a quick and easy process, the process itself is never quick and rarely ever easy. In fact, unless you meet very specific requirements, it’s unlikely for your student loans to be forgiven at all.

Two types of scams to watch out for

According to the Better Business Bureau, there are two versions of this scam that you need to watch out for. Here’s how to spot them — and why you shouldn’t fall for them.

1. Fast and easy loan forgiveness. Scammers will claim that they can erase or lower your student loan debt. In order to do so, they will request you pay a fee so they can negotiate with your lenders on your behalf. This fee, of course, is a con — the money will be pocketed by the scammers, and at best your loans will remain unchanged. You might be tempted by claims that they have helped other people or that they’re operating under the U.S. government, but remember that you must meet specific requirements to have your loans forgiven — such as working in public service or total and permanent disability. You can learn more about the circumstances under which loans may be forgiven or canceled on the government’s official Federal Student Aid website.

2. Consolidation of your loans. Another version of this scam will claim that letting them negotiate consolidation of your loans for you will save you money. You may be asked to sign over power of attorney to the scammers, which gives them control over your debts. In some cases, you might fork over money to pay for a free government service (the U.S. Department of Education allows you to consolidate your federal student loans for free), and in others the scammers might move your loans to a private lender with a high interest rate. Either way, you certainly won’t be saving any money.

Looking at current statistics, if you’re feeling hopeless when it comes to your student loans, you aren’t alone. Most people would probably jump at the chance to get rid of their educational debt, but at the end of the day, it’s still money that you borrowed which you’ll need to pay back. If you are having trouble making payments, there are options such as deferment or income-based payment plans that can help ease your burden. Contact your lenders directly to work things out, and don’t let yourself be swayed by scammers eager to take advantage of your situation.