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Contact 2: Navigating confusing student loan consolidation offers

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - “The first thing I noticed it says, ‘Dear, my first name.’ Then it says your loan is up to $36,000. Well, that’s not too far off, but it’s not the exact number," said Scott Criscione, Lindenwood University Class of 2014.

Criscione said he knew something was fishy with a letter he'd received offering student loan consolidation and payment reduction.

“I looked at it and they want your financial student aid ID, some other IDs,” he said.

Criscione dug deeper. His search led him to the Department of Education.

“I called DOE and said, ‘Hey, what is it?’ The girl replied, ‘We’ve heard that one before. It’s a fake,’” he said.

The loan consolidation offered by “Assure Direct Services” isn’t really fake, per say, its services just aren’t really necessary.

The fine print at the bottom of the letter Criscione received notes that ADS is not affiliated with the government or any of its programs. It goes on to acknowledge that the very service it charges you for can be obtained from the government for free.

"If you decide paying for help is what you want to do, that’s fine, but you need to know exactly what you’re getting,” said Robert Farrington, founder of TheCollegeInvestor.com.

Farrington said he sees plenty of borrowers get in trouble with companies selling something that doesn’t actually exist. He said companies make promises they can’t commit to and then the borrower ends up in trouble. Unfortunately, the borrower often doesn't realize they’re in trouble until maybe six months or a year down the road, after they’ve already paid fees up front.

It’s an issue Criscione won’t have to worry about.

“Don’t just trust some piece of paper in the mail you could easily through away that’s sent out to the masses,” he said.

If you decide you still want to pay a company to prepare and counsel you in the loan consolidation process, Robert Farrington recommends doing your homework. Make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for and what you’re getting, because there are many fly-by-night companies in the industry.