Okay here comes the ironic statement of the year. I hate talking to people on the phone. As a result I am the kind of jerk that makes my wife do all my calling for me whenever possible. Utilities, medical, you name it. Before my wife had the pleasure of doing so for me, I had my mother do it for the same reason (luckily I got married very early so there wasn’t that awkard moment of a parent calling for their 28 year old son).
In both these cases, these wonderful people are doing something well-intentioned to help someone they love. It is in this same mind-set that any authentication problems occur when it comes to student loans. Luckily for people like me the authentication rules are both stringent and flexible depending on the area. There are some major areas that need addressed.
1)Who am I in relation to this loan?
You confidently call me up and say “I am the cosigner on this loan.” Though not impossible, this is not likely as co-signers on student loans are becoming more and more rare. So while I am skeptical we are going to talk this through as there are several possibilities of what you actually are.
The cosigner. I mean maybe you are. If you are, you have access to any information on your loans and can make changes to your loans as well (since there can be loans the borrower has that your name is not on, it is only one these loans). You are secondarily responsible for the debt meaning if the borrower doesn’t pay, you will hear about it. It can also, as a result, have a negative impact on your credit.
Co-maker. In this scenario, you are equally responsible for the loan. This is most common in the now defunct spousal consolidation loans. It is two individuals applying for a loan together and both being responsible for what happens as a primary party. As a result both can make changes however not without the other (for example in a forbearance, both parties must agree to the terms).
Reference. This is the second most common when someone says they are the cosigner. Every loan must have two references listed so we can contact someone if we are unable to get ahold of the borrower. As the reference however, you have no responsibility for the loan. As a result, you can not receive any information for it as well. If you are a parent or spouse, you may still be able to receive information as an Immediate Family Member assuming you provide the appropriate authentication (borrowers name, social, and date of birth).
Parent PLUS Loan. If you call me up and tell me your are cosigning for a child, this is my automatic assumption as it is by far the winner. In this scenario you are not the cosigner, but the borrower and are 100% responsible for the loan. The only role the student plays is the money was taken out for their education. All payments however fall directly back on you.
2) What to do if you are not directly liable for the loan
So you either have boundary issues or a socially crippled spouse or child like me, but these are not your loans. What now?
Let’s look at three different scenarios. Please remember these are for Federal loans. If you have other loan types, that is fine. Just contact the company and the representative there can fill you in on what you have to do and what you are and aren’t allowed to do.
Parent, Child who Parent PLUS pays for, Spouse. So you guys call and what I usually do (whenever able) to try and authenticate you as an Immediate Family Member. An IFM is someone who once they authenticate about the borrower with the borrower’s name/social/date of birth, they can receive information about the account. No special paperwork is required. The only time this cannot happen is if because of loan date or loan type. In these cases we will cover in a later section. We will tell you almost anything about the account. However if you want to make any changes to the account your introverted child or spouse must leave the couch and do it themselves as only the borrower can make changes or be on the online account.
Power of Attorney. You have a son who is going off to the military for two years. We all must applaud you because in this emotional time you take the initiative to get power of attorney over different parts of your son’s financial affairs. Now that it is time to use it, what can you do?
As a Power of Attorney you are acting on behalf of the borrower and thus are treated as the borrower. In fact when I am speaking to you I will be speaking to you as if you are the borrower. This means you can be on the online account, you can make changes or sign forms. If the borrower can do it, you can too!
Anyone Else. If you are the sister, grandparent, next door neighbor, good friend, or dog of the borrower and do not have a POA, I cannot talk to you unless I have authentication from the borrower. There is two ways I can get this. The first is to have the borrower call in and give us permission to speak to you. This only last for that phone call. So much so if you drop the phone, have it hang up, call right back and get me again 30 seconds later, the borrower must still do the same process. This permission must be done verbally and on the spot. Emailing in and saying “If my mom calls you have permission to speak with her” does not cut it.
The second option is the preferred in many cases. There is a Third Party Authorization form that can be completed. This will grant permission for the person to have many of the same (actually one or two more) powers as the IFM once they authenticate the borrower. As an Authorized Third Party you are still not able to make changes or allowed to be on the online account.
3) What if the borrower doesn’t want to have a IFM have permission or no longer give access to a third party?
Families are complicated. You and your wife are having a big fight or are separated but not divorced. Junior left town with the dog after you got into a fight about curfew. You gave your sister permission to talk on your account but she has since decided you suck as a human and you reciprocate the feelings. Or you have become a hermit and want no one to bother you or your business, but are still making student loan payments. What is a person to do?
We try to make it as easy as possible since we realize how hard it is to be a hermit or have a family where members are beating each other with the figurative crazy stick. So if you don’t want someone to have access to your account, just tell us. A note from the borrower will override any IFM distinction and the borrower can have an authorization cancelled any time.
4) Aren’t we kinda being hard asses?
I guess. But our bosses answer to the Department of Education and they answer to whatever federal overlord oversees them and well I made it a goal a long time ago never to have Uncle Sam pissed at me. I mean have you seen that stern look he has as he’s pointing at you?
But seriously, these are federal regulations that we have to follow. They are put in place for the borrower’s privacy protection. I will admit like many things in this situation, as you are being protected some over-protective silliness does occur. But trust me, if we keep someone who you don’t want (such as in a phishing attack) from obtaining your information, you’ll thank us. So don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and realize that we are doing what Uncle Sam wants and Sammy is just trying to make sure your personal info isn’t being compromised.
5) So what can I do to make this process easier on me?
There are a few things that may prove to be beneficial. For example check your mail to see if we have all your information credit. If your middle initial is G and we put F, make sure you let me know so I can tell you how to change it. Also, even if your friends call you Tank and your Mom calls you Teddy, to us you are still Theodore. When it comes to authentication don’t introduce yourself as someone we don’t have, we are very buttoned up suit types who love the letter of the law. But then once you are authenticated we will call you Tank if you want, because we really loosen up at that point.
This is especially true in emails. Don’t authenticate with your normal information then sign a different name. We aren’t sure if your cousin Tank wrote the letter for you Theodore. This will cause us to block your account for security purposes, you to call angry and take time out of your busy life to rectify this situation. So for those few seconds please just use the name your momma gave you.
Also don’t forget the suffixes. If I have a dollar for everytime I have to say “Is there another version of your name?” I’d be sitting on the beach in Malibu writing this blog. Which is one more reason to check what we have on file. This will tell you if we need your married or maiden name or if we put you under Sam since that is what you wrote down (even if your name is Samuel).
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