Collector - August 2018 - 11
of student loan borrowers believe
that private student loans are eligible
for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Source: Student Loan Hero
different departments," Zitur-Hagel said.
"And when I reach out, it's important for
them to know that they need to do their
part quickly and accurately. It's all part of
building a good team of people who trust
and respect the role of the ombudsman."
The primary purpose of an ombudsman is
to help resolve consumer and client issues,
but they also serve a valuable internal
function as well. By staying current with
consumer complaint trends, ombudsmen
can identify areas where collectors might
need extra help or guidance.
"I'm not part of operations, but I do
report back to operations and our training
department when I discover an area of
concern so they are aware collectors are
having issues in certain areas and they can
provide the necessary training to eliminate
those and hopefully avert problems and
complaints down the road," Duenkel said.
"I've found that most of our training and
policies and procedures have come from
At Trellis Company, Seibert speaks
directly to the collector who forwarded him
the complaint or referred a consumer to
him to describe what kind of solution he
came up with in case the collector runs into
the issue again.
He said that while some of the problems
consumers bring him are highly unusual-
such as the time he helped untangle a
situation where two consumers were
born on the same day, with the same
name, in the same metro area and had
been assigned the same Social Security
number, one being saddled with the other's
student loan debt-more often, he helps
consumers work through the basics of
their debt, like explaining how a $30,000
loan ballooned to the $75,000 balance
owed. In that sense, he's giving consumers
essential financial literacy tools to help
them understand their obligations and
make more informed decisions.
TOPICS TO AVOID
While ombudsmen can help consumers cut
through the confusion surrounding their
student loans, there are some issues they
may choose not to handle. For instance, if a
consumer believes he doesn't owe the debt,
ombudsmen are not going to simply forgive
it; instead, they may provide the consumer
with documents to help him understand the
debt's origins. Duenkel said he also has a lot
of discussions with consumers about their
"I've had consumers ask that we not credit
report," Duenkel said. "I tell them that I have
a responsibility either contractually with
the client or under the FCRA that I can't
suspend credit bureau reporting just because
you think it's unfair."
Ombudsmen generally handle informal
concerns and don't typically get involved in
cases that are currently being litigated.
Zitur-Hagel said she doesn't deal with
operational issues that already have a policy
and procedure in place, like reviewing
federal student loan discharge applications,
though she would direct the consumer to
the right person or place. She also clearly
explains her role to consumers so they know
what to expect.
"I give them my direct number because I
want them to know I'm not hiding anything,"
Zitur-Hagel said. "I tell them: I'm here to
help you. I may not be able to help you today,
but I can start. I can't undo the feelings you
have had about the industry in the past, but
I can hopefully change how you feel about it
Anne Rosso May is editor of Collector