A Google spokesperson said the company’s rules prohibit advertisers from falsely suggesting they are affiliated with the government, and that there are “strict rules” for ads related to financial services, including a ban on those that do not disclose charges or push for credit repair. “We are committed to fighting financial fraud in advertising and protecting consumers from scams,” the spokesperson said. “We are reviewing the ads in question and will remove any that violate our policies.”
The ads are particularly concerning at a time of heightened interest in federal student loan relief, when more people are likely to conduct such searches, TTP said.
Federal student loan payments have been suspended since March 2020, and President Biden has extended the reprieve through August 31. The suspension of payments brought relief to borrowers, but also created uncertainty about their future obligations. Today, 45 million people collectively owe nearly $1.7 trillion in student loan debt, according to the Student Borrower Protection Center, a Washington-based nonprofit.
Federal student loans are managed by third-party companies, and the poor service borrowers often receive, coupled with the Biden administration’s lack of clarity on the future of student loan relief, has left them even more vulnerable to scams, Ben Kaufman said. , Director of Research and Investigations at the Center for the Protection of Student Borrowers.
“Borrowers are just screwed,” he said. “They are made to be catnip for these crooks.”
In 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau urged Google, Microsoft Corp., Facebook and Yahoo! from Meta Platforms Inc.! Inc. to take steps to ensure that ads for suspicious services do not appear alongside search results related to student loans. Two years later, the Federal Trade Commission launched an effort with 11 states and the District of Columbia to combat student loan scams. Business remains the focus of enforcement, said Michelle Grajales, an attorney with the FTC’s Financial Practices Division.
“Scammers also read the news,” Grajales said. “They also follow these trends and, unfortunately, take them into account in their presentations to consumers.”