Third-Party debt relief companies’ use of institutional names, logos and other trademarks

On January 28, 2016, the Department of Education sent cease and desist letters to two third-party “debt relief” companies that were using ED’s Official Seal without authorization. The misuse of the Department of Education’s Seal is part of a growing and worrying trend. Some of these companies are charging large up-front or monthly fees for federal student aid services offered by the Department of Education and its student loan servicers for free. Such services include:

  • Consolidating federal student loans;
  • Changing repayment plans;
  • Resolving defaults;
  • Filing requests for borrower defense loan cancellation; and
  • Other benefits and services that students are entitled to receive at no charge.

These debt relief companies may utilize sophisticated strategies to target unsuspecting borrowers and inappropriately use the Department of Education’s logo or other identifying information to give the impression that they were working with or for the government.

If an institution believes that an organization is using, without approval, the institution’s identity as part of its marketing efforts, it should consider contacting its Attorney General’s Office or other state consumer protection agency or consider taking legal action against such companies.

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