I reported yesterday and this morning on scam websites that promise people help with jobs, food stamps, heat assistance, Medicaid -- things that low-income and working Americans want -- but the sites are really just fronts to get people's phone numbers, so workers at a call center in Utah can pitch them on enrolling in overpriced, low-quality for-profit colleges.
Within 90 minutes after I posted my story yesterday, one of the sites I discussed, localemploymentnetwork.org, had been shut down. Perhaps just caution by its operators, or perhaps some concern about suggestions I made that the site's owner, Neutron Interactive, and the call center's owner, EdSoup / EduTrek, might be violating federal and state laws.
This morning I discovered and wrote about other similar scam websites housed on the same server as localemploymentnetwork and Neutron's corporate site.
Now I've taken a closer look at the second bait-and-switch site I highlighted yesterday, medicaidinsurancebenefits.com, which invites visitors to "Find and Seek Medicaid Benefits In Your Area." Here, before proceeding, the user must provide an email address and phone number, and "agree" to a small-print notice "to be contacted to discuss job openings, career alerts, legal services, and educational opportunities." The contact address listed on the site is in the Philippines. Former EdSoup employees identified the site to me as another means of delivering phone numbers for deceptive for-profit college pitches.
Information found on the Internet indicates that medicaidinsurancebenefits.com was registered three months ago to one Fernando Reighard, at a residential address in Dallas. I can find no information in any database anywhere about Fernando Reighard, other than that similar websites have been registered in his name in recent months -- such as medicaidapplicationusa.com and snapfoodstampsonline.com -- some screen shots here and here, in case the sites get taken down. Fernando Reighard is also the name listed as registering recallsettlementsearch.com, which is targeted at people injured in GM cars or affected by recalls, and topstudentloanhelp.com, which is not currently running.
Hang on. Fernando Reighard and the Dallas house address are also connected via a website registration to an email address that in turn I found was linked to a website called familyhelpnetworkusa.com, supposedly offering housing assistance. When I tried to get information on assistance through the website, I reached a window that asked me to agree to the following:
By clicking Get Started Instantly, I agree to be contacted to discuss job openings, career alerts, legal services, and educational opportunities at the number provided, even if a wireless number, through the use of an automated dialer by EdSoup, U.S. News University Connection, LLC or our preferred partners.
(OK, yes, I see U.S. News, and I don't know if they are really connected to this particular shady chain of actors, but I do want to investigate more down the road about U.S. News' role in lead generation. But for now...) The reference back to EdSoup confirms the interconnected nature of this web of for-profit college marketers.
According to public records, the house whose address is given in the recent website registrations for Fernando Reighard was purchased in June by Eric W. Johnson of Dallas. No one answered the Google Voice number listed on website registrations for Fernando Reighard, and the listing I found for Eric W. Johnson led to a number whose mailbox was full.
Who is operating all these scam websites, aimed at tricking struggling people into getting on sales calls for for-profit colleges? And when will the big for-profit colleges linked to these operations -- companies that get 85 to 90 percent of their revenues from taxpayers -- tell us the truth about how they do their business?
This article also appears on Republic Report.