The Department of Education has always advised caution when working with third-parties on FAFSA completion, and is urging additional vigilance going forward given the unavailability of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).
Representatives from the IRS and the Office of Federal Student Aid suspended the service in March out of concern that it could be misused by identity thieves. The tool, which many students use when applying for federal aid, is not expected to be restored until fall 2017.
There are reports that some students and families have been scammed by individuals seeking to take advantage of this situation by charging families for help filing the FAFSA and/or stealing the families’ personal information for illicit use.
Students and families should remember that it is free to complete the FAFSA and that applying for financial aid should never cost you money. The Department of Education does not endorse or affiliate with any individual or organization that charges a fee for FAFSA assistance.
Help spread the word among the families you serve. The Federal Student Aid (FSA) website houses a variety of resources to identify and avoid potential scams. In addition, FSA offers guidance to individuals who have been scammed. Anyone who believes they’ve been a victim of fraud should contact the Department of Education, the Federal Trade Commission, and/or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Liz Glaser is NACAC’s government relations manager. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.