Monday, May 21, 2007

Educational Research Center of America, the Student Marketing Group, the College Bound Selection Service and the National Honor Roll: a web of deceit

Nelnet is also a recipient of the Seal of Approval. Never mind that Nelnet is also a company that is under investigation from Congress and being sued by the New York Attorney General for deceptive lending practices, including operating call centers for colleges without stating that they are Nelnet employees who only give out information on Nelnet loans (see 1) below).

Nelnet is also, since 2005, are owners of the Student Marketing Group and the National Honor Roll.

http://digital50.com/news/items/PR/2005/04/01/NYF149/student-marketing-group-and-national-honor-roll-announce-acquisition-by-nelnet.html

The Student Marketing Group gets student names from the Educational Research of America, a group that, like NRCCUA, sends surveys to high school teachers and counselors and also was a party to lawsuits and settlements from the NY Attorney General's Office as well as the Federal Trade Commission. "... named in the settlement were Lynbrook, NY-based SMG president Jan Stumacher and ECRA principal, Marian Sanjana."

http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2003/01/ecra.shtm

http://www.ftc.gov/os/2003/05/ERCAcomplaint.pdf



These organizations similarly use their organizations to gain access to student names through "research" surveys, then in turn sell their information to commercial marketers and other than less savory groups.

One such group is the National Honor Roll, which pretends to be a separate entity from SMG, is actually intimately related to it and, similar to NRCCUA’s relationship to Who's Who, and provides the names to this scam organization. (see 2) below)

SMG also uses front organizations to hide its affiliations. One is the College Bound Selection Service, owned by SMG. Nowhere on the web site for CBSS do they note their affiliation with SMG but they do note that their president, Mr. Barone (no first name) was a former admissions director at Mt. Ida College and "has presented at National Association of College Admissions Counselors conferences and conducted regional seminars on "The Utilization of Direct Mail In Student Recruitment"
http://www.cbssearch.net/cbss_leadership.htm

Nelnet also owns Peterson's, a fellow recipient on the NACAC Seal of Approval and the sponsor of a past NACAC Conference Social (though they do not appear to have the legal and ethical problems of Nelnet's other subsidiaries).

1) From the Chronicle of Higher Education in March of this year: Mr. Cuomo began his investigation last November, when he sent letters to four lenders: EduCap Inc.; Education Finance Partners; the National Education Loan Network, also known as NelNet; and Sallie Mae...The New York attorney general's office later issued a statement saying its investigation of Nelnet had not ended...Nelnet did not agree to give up contracts that allow the company's representatives to answer customer-service calls to colleges' financial-aid offices...

Nelnet Staffs State Non-Profit Counseling Center

In addition to operating call centers at colleges, one student loan company helps staff a state non-profit college counseling center, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. The College Planning Center of Rhode Island claims to offer free, independent advice on attending college. But the center’s employees work for a subsidiary of Nelnet and do not disclose their affiliation when answering questions on student loans. In fact, students who ask about loans are only given information about Nelnet loans (offered through the state’s student loan authority). Nelnet operates call centers at seven colleges, but had not yet disclosed its partnership with the counseling center in Rhode Island. Nelnet’s voluntary, self-made code of conduct agreement with the Nebraska Attorney General does not include ending its calling centers, in contrast to the code of conduct developed by New York

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

2) From College Confidential: Let me share with you what I know about the National Honor Roll. The National Honor Roll is a scam organization. They are targeting high school students all across the nation. Last year my daughter received notification. Don't be fooled. Their letterhead is fancy, and they even claim to be located at a prestigious Pennsylvania Avenue address in Washington, DC . The address they use is 2020 Pennsylvania Avenue. However, that is the address for Mail Boxes Etc. If you have any doubts, go to the Mail Boxes, Etc. web site at http://www.mbe.com/ and click on the icon "locate a store globally." The icon is in the upper right hand corner of their web page. I contacted the Mail Boxes, Etc. store in Washington, DC . Here is the full address and telephone number: 2020 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20006-1811 - USA , phone (202) 457-8166. National Honor Roll claims to be in Suite 8000 . There isn't a Suite number at 2020 Pennsylvania Avenue. The number 8000 stands for the mailbox number for National Honor Roll. A courier picks up mail from this mailbox. It could be a different courier every day. The phone number for "National Honor Roll" is (202)737-0715. It re-routes callers to a New York telephone number. The address in New York is 300 Merrick Road, Suite 206 , Lynbrook , NY 11563 . The phone number is 516-593-0555. This is the same address for Student Marketing Group. The state of New York filed a petition against StudentMarketing Group on July 8, 2002. Please see the .pdf file at http://ww.epic.org/privacy/student/smgpetition.pdf Student Marketing Group collects information on students and sells lists. Unsuspecting teachers pass out information to students. The students do not know their personal information is being fed back to National Honor Roll and Student Marketing Group. You see, the teachers are also being sucked into this scam. The bottom line is that National Honor Roll is a vanity press. A vanity press means anyone can publish anything for a fee. Colleges throw away stuff sent to them from the National Honor Roll because it is considered unsolicited junk. They claim your name and profile can be published free in the book, but why would you want them to do this? You do not want to have your personal information on the streets. Call them right away and have your name taken off their list. And while you are at it, ask them why they are scamming the American people. I encourage all to file a mail fraud complaint against the National Honor Roll. Postal Inspectors base mail fraud investigations on the number, substance and pattern of complaints received from the public. Here is the URL to the Postal Inspector's web page https://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/welcome.htm In the lower left-hand portion of the screen is the link to 'File a Mail Fraud Complaint' So, how do they get students' personal information? Well, they share the same office and survey information with Student Marketing Group in Lynbrook , New York . But, there is a third element involved in this scheme. Student Marketing Group gets their information from Educational Research Center of America, Inc., otherwise known as ERCA. ERCA is the organization that sends the surveys to teachers all across America . Teachers pass these surveys out to their students. Of course, students think these are "safe" surveys because the teachers are passing them out. Teachers collect the surveys and place them in postage-paid envelopes. They mail them back to 2020 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW , Room 7799, Washington , DC 20006 . Hmmmmmmmmmmm! Does this address sound familiar? Yes! It is the same address as National Honor Roll at Mail Boxes, Etc. on the George Washington University campus. In this case, the 7799 is not a room. It is ERCA's mailbox number. ERCA claims their phone number is (202) 393-7799. The (202) is a Washington , DC area code. E-mail address is info@studentresearch.org I haven't tried the phone number or the e-mail, but I can guess that the phone number re-routes callers to Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania . Please see the Federal Trade Commission report involving Student Marketing Group and Educational Research Center of America at http://www.ftc.gov/os/2003/01/ercaconsent.htm Happy reading! By the way, National Honor Roll claims they give away scholarships. Does anyone know if these scholarships exist? Who receives these scholarships? Does Lynn Romeo, the publisher of National Honor Roll, give these scholarships to her nieces? nephews? herself? Please advise. The people in Lynbrook , New York will tell you that their Headquarters is in Washington , DC . If you ask them anything about the "Headquarters" they will tell you, "well, it is really our processing center." I have talked with Jane, Wendy and Linda in the Lynbrook , NY office. They are all very evasive about the organization. They won't tell you anything about the courier who they hire to pick up the mail. When they get tired of you asking legitimate quesitons, they will transfer you to the voice mail of Lynn Romeo. Of course, Lynn Romeo doesn't return your calls. Let's stop these people. Every educator, librarian, parent, congressman, journalist and anybody else who cares about the safety of our nation's children should be concerned. Please forward this information to everyone you know. Want to learn more? Please visit the Better Business Bureau web site at http://www.dc.bbb.org/report.html?compid=W8000570&national=Y to see the Better Business Bureau Report.

1 comment:

Frederick Milton said...

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