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Don’t mess with DOE

By Crissinda Ponder ·
Sunday, July 8, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

Student loan defaulters beware: 30 years from now, when you least expect it, a hungry federal government may devour your bank account funds and paycheck.

That's the message sent to first-grade teacher and Los Angeles resident Linda Brice. More than three decades after she borrowed money to pay for college, attorneys representing the federal government withdrew nearly $2,500 from her bank account and snatched away 25 percent of her income -- more than $900 a month.

Struggling to pay for food, gas and utilities, she begged for mercy, according to a Bloomberg article profiling the 58-year-old Coast Guard veteran.

Brice's bank account was drained and wages garnished after a chief federal judge in Los Angeles ruled she should pay $25 a month.

Back in 2004, she consolidated some of her debt through a U.S. Department of Education program that lets borrowers make lower monthly payments. But there was a defaulted $3,100 loan not included in that consolidation. Brice says she didn't know.

Moral: The DOE means business.

Student loan debt now amounts to $1 trillion -- more than the amount owed on credit cards.

If the DOE fails to be repaid, it can turn your name over to federal prosecutors. Private law firms are then hired to recover the money owed.

Stay organized. Keep up with all of your educational debt. Find the DOE before they find you.

Crissinda Ponder is a reporting intern for Bankrate. Follow her on Twitter @CrissiPonder.

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