If last week’s government shutdown weren’t bad enough news for consumers, fraudulent accounts for student loan giant Sallie Mae have started popping up on Instagram. The fake Sallie Mae accounts claim they’re offering student loan forgiveness as a result of the shutdown.
In case there’s any doubt: these Instagram accounts, and their offers of student loan forgiveness, are fake. Sallie Mae has a Facebook and Twitter presence, but no Instagram — and they’re certainly not running a “Government Shutdown Special.”
The operators of the fake Instagram accounts are asking followers for their personal information, which they may use to commit identity theft or other online fraud. Don’t fall for it.
Dozens of Fake Sallie Mae Accounts on Instagram
A quick search on Instagram for “Sallie Mae” yielded over a dozen accounts, almost all of which featured a ridiculously tempting offer in their description:
Sallie Mae is a publicly traded company, not a government institution, so its operations aren’t affected by the shutdown. And while some businesses are offering “shutdown specials,” like free car washes to furloughed government employees, letting a hundred and fifty thousand people walk away from their student debt seems just a bit too generous to be believable.
Can you say “too good to be true”?
A spokesperson for Sallie Mae went to Buzzfeed to clarify the matter:
Some people are using the government shutdown to create Internet hoaxes about several different companies, and this is one of them. Student loans are unaffected by the government shutdown. We’re here to assist you with any borrowing and repayment needs, as usual.
Sallie Mae also updated their official Facebook page to remind users that they’ll never ask you for your personal information through social media:
Sounds like the fake accounts are luring people into following, then asking for personal information – information that can be used for further scams or identity theft.
Sallie Mae’s Actual Social Media Presence: Much More Mundane
Sallie Mae currently doesn’t maintain an Instagram presence at all. Makes sense: image-based social marketing is better suited to restaurants or retail brands than lending institutions. Most users wouldn’t really care about seeing that “How to Pay For College” pie chart beautifully rendered with the Helena filter.
Social media is, however, a new and growing division of many companies’ customer service operations. Official Facebook and Twitter sites are decent, if not entirely seamless, ways of getting your questions answered.
Sallie Mae does operate official Facebook and Twitter accounts, where customers can bring their questions or concerns, and hopefully be directed to someone who can answer them.
But even if Sallie Mae did operate an official Instagram account, they would never request a user’s personal information through the service. Any “official” account that asks for your password, Social Security number, address or other info via social media should be red flagged as a possible scam.
Social Media Scams on the Rise
As more companies include social media sites as part of their marketing and customer service operations, even more scammers will try to dupe consumers with fake special offers like this one.
Just remember: offers like this one are in the “too good to be true” category. And never, ever give away your personal information – Social Security number, bank accounts, or home address — over social media.
Encountered other dubious offers online? Let us know.