CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - It’s the four-letter word that haunts countless Americans: Debt.
One woman thought a student loan forgiveness program would be her great escape; she soon found out none of the money she was paying went toward her debt. After going back to school for two years to become a medical assistant, Shamel Byrd wanted to pay off her $40,000 in student loans, and get debt free.
When someone called her offering a payment plan, she was all ears.
“Told me how much I owe and said, ‘Hey, look. We can cut your payments down, cut it in half,’” Byrd told FOX 46.
It wasn’t just her payments that’d be cut in half. Byrd says she was promised her entire loan would be cut in half. She claims for two years, Equitable Acceptance Corporation took $49 straight out of her paycheck.
“A total of $1,200,” she said adding the whole time she thought she was paying her student loans.
During that time, the Department of Education kept sending her mail about her delinquent payments. Then, during tax season, she got the biggest blow.
“My tax return had got taken,” she said. “So I'm like, ‘I know this is definitely a scam.’” She said. “So now I'm heartbroken, because I don't have anything right now.”
Byrd signed a contract that, while it doesn’t outline her federal student loan payments, it does talk about fees she would owe the company for its services.
“This company is essentially, in my opinion and as stated in the contract, an unnecessary middle man between the student and department of education,” said attorney Walter Bowers, managing partner at Wooden Bowers Law. Bowers says the services don’t add up to much of anything.
“It's in the contract that you're really paying them a lot of money to take documents from you and deliver them to the department of education,” he said.
In a letter to Byrd, however, Federal Student Aid states they’re not affiliated with any third-party debt relief companies. On the Better Business Bureau website, there are also hundreds of complaints against the same business, adding up to an “F” rating.
FOX 46 called the company to get a deeper explanation. They reiterated Byrd’s payments went toward their service fees and not her loans. After putting us on hold for nearly ten minutes, they referred us to their attorney; we’re waiting to hear back.