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California DFPI Requires Student Loan Debt-Relief Company to Pay More Than $1 Million in Penalties, Restitution

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SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) today announced it is requiring a Tustin-based student loan debt-relief company, Amerifed Doc Prep LLC, to pay penalties and refunds totaling more than $1.37 million after finding the company violated the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL) by collecting illegal advance fees prohibited under the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule.

The announcement follows a wider crackdown that began in February against student loan debt-relief companies skirting the CCFPL and the Student Loan Servicing Act.

“The DFPI is committed to protecting student loan borrowers from predatory debt-relief scams,” said Acting Commissioner Christopher S. Shultz. “The Department will not tolerate student loan debt-relief companies that charge California consumers fees that violate the law or bilk and mislead consumers. Borrowers with challenges repaying student loans should call the U.S. Department of Education or their loan servicer directly.”

In a consent order, the DFPI required Amerifed to refund California student loan borrowers more than $870,000 it had collected in fees and pay a $500,000 penalty to the Department. In the order, the company also agreed to cease its illegal conduct, to cancel all unlawful contracts with consumers, and to refund consumers within 60 days.

An investigation by the Department found that Amerifed lured consumers with promises of getting their student loans reduced or forgiven in exchange for an initial payment as high as $899 and an ongoing monthly fee of $39. The DFPI’s investigation found that more than 1,000 California student loan borrowers signed up with Amerifed and were charged illegal up-front fees prohibited under the federal telemarketing law.

The Department recently issued several other actions to stop similar behavior and continue its aggressive crackdown against student loan debt-relief companies violating the new consumer protection law. The DFPI recently signed another consent order with San Diego-based Libre Technology, Inc., doing business as Docupop, requiring that it repay $7,379 to consumers in fees collected, pay a $2,500 penalty, and stop offering student loan debt-relief services in California without a license.

Earlier this month, the DFPI issued desist and refrain orders against two other Tustin-based student loan debt-relief companies. The Department issued an order against Federal Document Assistance Center LLC after finding it blanketed consumers with misleading mailers that falsely implied an affiliation with official federal borrower assistance programs. The Department issued another order against Higher Level Processing Inc. after finding it relied on social media marketing to reach vulnerable borrowers. And earlier this year, Irvine-based Optima Advocates, Inc., found in February to be breaking the law, issued nearly $100,000 in refunds to California borrowers of fees it had collected and paid a $47,500 penalty to the Department.

Consumers can apply free of charge for loan deferments, forbearance, forgiveness, discharge, or alternative repayment plans directly through the U.S. Department of Education or their loan servicer. For federal student loan repayment options, visit www.StudentAid.gov/repay. For private student loans, contact your loan servicer. To file a complaint with the DFPI regarding a debt-relief company, visit https://dfpi.ca.gov/file-a-complaint/.  

In 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the CCFPL into law and expanded the DFPI’s authority to regulate a broader range of consumer financial products and services, like debt-relief companies. Under the CCFPL, one of the DFPI’s aims is protecting the 3.7 million borrowers in California who owe nearly $125 billion in student loan debt. Nationwide, student loan debt exceeds $1.5 trillion and is the second-largest class of consumer debt behind mortgage loans.

In addition to debt-relief companies, the DFPI licenses and regulates state-chartered banks and credit unions, commodities and investment advisers, money transmitters, mortgage servicers, the offer and sale of securities and franchises, broker-dealers, nonbank installment lenders, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program administrators, student-loan servicers, escrow companies, debt collectors, rent-to-own contractors, credit repair companies, consumer credit reporting companies, and more.



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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances

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Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit

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Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.

 

 

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