HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had lasting financial impacts on some Pennsylvanians, but that has not stopped scammers from targeting students or borrowers who are seeking relief from loan forgiveness programs.

“With the continuing pandemic, many consumers have been in search of financial relief,” Secretary of Banking and Securities, Richard Vague said. “Like other scams, these perpetrators prey upon the hope and vulnerability of people, creating an ideal scenario to take advantage of them.”

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According to the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, the recent pandemic-related pause in student loan payments, plus public calls for broad-based student loan forgiveness have caused an uptick in scams.

“Many students and families across Pennsylvania borrow funds to help finance post-secondary education, resulting in debt that may take years to pay off,” Secretary of Education, Dr. Noe Ortega said. “It’s important for borrowers who are seeking student loan debt relief to be aware of the associated scams and avoid them at all costs.”

The department says Pennsylvanians should be skeptical about incoming communications and research what program is being offered to them. Applicants should also verify every email address, ensuring that emails being received for student loans are from a dot-gov (.gov) email address.

If you think you’ve been scammed, the department recommends closing any open accounts and stopping payments. If you shared your bank account or credit card information with a scammer, contact your bank or credit card company immediately to close your accounts or stop payments.