Archive for August, 2014

For Profit Colleges: Big Promises, Huge Debt, Shattered Dreams

I’m not a proponent of lots of government regulation.  In fact, whenever I hear the words “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”,  I immediately run.  However, after researching some of the malarkey going on in the “For Profit” college category, I’m beginning to think that a good, government sponsored, butt kicking might be in order.

For Profit Colleges:  Leaving Students Jobless and In Debt

For Profit Colleges: Leaving Students Jobless and In Debt

What is a For Profit College?    You probably know them well, but by their heavily marketed names such as University of Phoenix, DeVry University or ITT Technical.   These schools bombard the television airwaves with spots touting that you can find a job, a career and a great life by getting one of their degrees.   Dig a little deeper and you find the problems.   For profit colleges are very expensive, especially when compared to a local, non-profit community college.   And, as many a for profit grad have discovered, a for profit degree often leaves a person in huge debt with no job prospects.   Even more troubling is the for profit college mega-aggressive marketing strategy that targets low-income and veteran consumers.   And similar to the payday loan industry that I’ve written about previously, for profit colleges also appear to be harvesting huge gains at the expense of people who are already experiencing great pain and challenge in their lives.   This last fact is what makes my blood boil.

Consumer Team Investigates For Profit Colleges:   I interviewed Consumer’s Union attorney Suzanne Martindale for my consumer advocacy radio program The Consumer Team.   The interview will be broadcast on Saturday, August 30, 2014.   Martindale, who is on the front lines of fighting for increased scrutiny of for profit colleges, voiced concern about Wall Street’s involvement in the for profit college industry.    That’s right, a number of these colleges are public companies.   As Martindale shared in our interview, the for profit college industry is currently under fire from a number of angles.   The Securities and Exchange Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are both investigating the category, as are the attorneys general from 30 different states.

Buyer Beware:   In spite of my comments above regarding government regulation of this business category, I believe that the marketplace is generally better served by an informed consumer who votes with their feet.   Anyone considering attending a for profit college needs to do additional research.   Indeed, one doesn’t have to do much digging to find serious dirt.     And, compliments of Ms. Martindale, the links below provide some valuable facts.


Pete Thomson

CEO – The Consumer Team

Editor’s Note:  The Consumer Team talk radio program is broadcast Saturdays from 5-7PM on CBS Radio’s 1080 KRLD in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas.  Pete Thomson has been working in consumer advocacy and investigative journalism for over 10 years.   Thomson is President/CEO of McQ Media, a Dallas-based advertising and marketing firm that promotes consumer and business advocacy.


Big Banks Pitching Bad Debit Cards to Students

The advertisements are so smooth, so good. The professionally designed magazine spread displays the logos of both a big bank and a college along with an offer to help students manage their financial aid with a super convenient debit card.   Full of school spirit, the debit card is beautifully adorned with the school colors.  It’s so easy to sign up too! Just sign on the dotted line and let the fun begin!   What isn’t apparent on this day is the fact that this debit card program is a bad, bad deal. In fact, the program will end up hurting a student because it will drain the very financial aid that it is designed to hold. Let’s start with the per-swipe usage fees that can be bigger than the purchase being made.  And then there’s penalty that the bank is going to charge the student for ‘lack of use’. Welcome to the world of Big Bank College Debit Card marketing.

Banks Behaving Badly:   College Debit Cards a Bad Deal

Banks Behaving Badly: College Debit Cards a Bad Deal

I recently learned about College Debit Cards from Suzanne Martindale, an attorney for Consumers Union, which is leading an effort to reign in Big Banks in this latest chapter of Banks Behaving Badly. Ms. Martindale was a guest on The Consumer Team, a consumer advocacy talk radio program that I host on KRLD Radio in Dallas, Texas.

In both my interview with Suzanne and through research she provided, I learned a number of things about College Debit Card programs:

Push Marketing:   The marketing campaigns to recruit college kids into these bad debit card programs is very aggressive.  In many colleges, every student automatically received a card, according to a Consumers Union report.  It is very in-your-face.

Colleges Are Positioned as Partners with Banks:  In fact, in many cases they are partners because they’re receiving a portion of revenues generated from the debit card program, also known as a kick-back or commission, depending on your perspective.  The convenient combination of logos and school colors are insidious and give the debit card programs the appearance of being endorsed, encouraged and preferred by the college.

College/Bank Debit Programs Discourage Use of Existing Bank Accounts:  Most kids heading to college already have a bank account.  To counter this competitive threat, the College/Bank Debit Card programs have established barriers that make setting up direct deposit with an existing bank account very difficult.   The barriers consist of enough forms, procedures and signatures to frustrate even the most detail driven consumers.  Put another way, they make it easy to say yes to their program by making lower cost alternatives nearly impossible to use.

Fees Out The Wazoo!  If the overdraft fees don’t get you, then the transaction or lack-of-activity fees will. Some banks are even nailing students with Lack of Documentation Fees if they don’t mail back documents within a certain time.

Vote With Your Feet:   We recommend that students and parents complain loudly to college administrators.  Let them know that you aren’t going to be participating in their scam and urge them to present a more credible program to students.  Beyond that, and just like any consumer transaction, shop the market for the best deal.   Smaller community banks and credit unions often do an outstanding job of serving their communities.

The College Debit Card Scam is just the beginning of Big Banking’s story of profiteering at the expense of the American consumer.  And even though more consumers than ever have figured out that big banks are not their friend, few people really understand just how much the deck of cards is stacked against them.  To understand how big banking controls our nation, you have to become a student of history.   You need to understand modern banking’s beginning with the Rothschild family in Europe as well as the Morgans in America.  To understand the role that banking continues to play in our lives, you’ve got to follow the money.

If you’d like to get a deeper understanding of big banking in America, I recommend several books:

The Creature From Jekyll Island – G. Edward Griffin:   Although the title suggests a science fiction novel, this book is hardly fiction.  It’s about the formation of The Federal Reserve in 1911 on Jekyll Island, off the coast of Georgia.   The book, which reads like a murder-mystery masterpiece, is sad and very troubling.  After reading “Creature”, you’ll understand clearly the cartel that is Big Banking in America.  You’ll understand their power and how it affects you as a citizen, taxpayer and a consumer.

The Big Short – Michael Lewis:   Lewis is the author of several best-sellers including Money Ball, Liar’s Poker and Flash Boys.  The Big Short is a very effective chronicle of the events that caused the economic crisis of 2007-2009.   It vividly describes the mortgage meltdown along with the role that big banks played in the near destruction of our economy.

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap – Matt Taibbi:   Known for his writing in Rolling Stone Magazine, Matt Taibbi is able to connect the dots between income inequality in America and its impact on justice and our legal system.    To be clear, this isn’t just another book about income redistribution, it’s an accurate accounting of how both the middle and lower classes of America are living in a much different America from the mega-uber-wealthy 1%.    This is a book that will disgust you.

Be advised, your views regarding America, our political system and, yes, Big Banking will be forever changed by these books.   Good luck, good reading and welcome to the world of truly understanding “Too Big to Fail” and “Too Big To Jail”.


Pete Thomson                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Founder/CEO – The Consumer Team

Editor’s Note:  Pete Thomson is a 30 year veteran of radio and television broadcasting.   He is CEO of McQ Media Inc, a full service marketing and advertising firm, in Dallas, Texas.   McQ Media works in the areas of consumer and advertiser advocacy and produces The Consumer Team talk radio program.

Consumer Team Radio: Best Back-to-School Computers, Do It Yourself Investing Peril & New Scams Targeting Hotel Guests

The Consumer Team in on the air!   Listen to host Pete Thomson, Saturday, 5-7PM Central on 1080 KRLD Radio.  On this weekend’s program (8-9-14):

Pete Thomson - The Consumer Team

Pete Thomson – The Consumer Team

Best Computers & Tablets for Students:   Consumer Report’s Carol Mangus will report on the best buys for students of all ages.

DIY Investing….”Kids Do Not Try This at Home!”:   We’ll review the latest Dalbar study which doesn’t give do-it-yourself investors a good grade.  Jim Poe of Texas Retirement Specialists will be our guest.

Scams Targeting Hotel Guests:   Ernie Sprance will report on new scams targeting hotel guests.   Be sure to tune in before you check in!

To learn more about The Consumer Team, click here.  To listen live, Saturday between 5-7PM (Central), click here.   The Consumer Team with Pete Thomson is produced by McQ Media, Dallas, Texas.


Consumer Team: Banks Pitching Bad Deal to Students

(DALLAS-FT. WORTH, TEXAS)   Since the financial collapse of 2008, more consumers are aware of the nefarious activities of big banks.   On Saturday, August 16, 2014, The Consumer Team will explore a new area of bad banking behavior:  high-fee debit cards being targeted to college students.   Suzanne Martindale, a staff attorney from Consumers Union, will join Consumer Team host Pete Thomson for the first of several broadcasts that will be devoted to questionable banking practices.   The Consumer Team is broadcast Saturdays from 5-7PM (Central) on 1080 KRLD Radio, Dallas, Texas.

The Consumer Team - Banks Behaving Badly

The Consumer Team – Banks Behaving Badly

Consumer Team host Pete Thomson, commented about the banking segment.  He said, “This is the latest chapter of big banks taking advantage of consumers.   They’re using aggressive marketing tactics to pitch a bad deal to college students.  In addition, in many cases colleges are participating in the promotion with the banks and sometimes actually share in the revenue made at the expense of the student.”

The Consumer Team segment will focus on the marketing programs being used and the fee structure of debit cards.   Thomson added, “These deals are very insidious.  The marketing programs make it appear that the bank and the college are working together to bring a valuable service to the students.   In reality, the terms and conditions are often so bad that they become an unnecessary drain on a student’s financial aid.”

In addition to identifying the problem, Thomson promises that listeners will learn about alternatives to big banks.   Thomson added, “The good news is that informed consumers don’t need to become a victim to these bad deals.  We’ll talk about effective, low-cost alternatives including credit unions, which we feel are a real friend to the consumer.”

Thomson applauded Consumers Union for their work in exposing the issue with student debit cards.   He said, “We believe that Consumers Union’s work in consumer policy and action is invaluable to all Americans.  Without their vigilance, the consumer marketplace would be very different.    Relative to the powerful big banks, that are ‘too big to fail’ and ‘too big to jail’,  Consumers Union’s courageous research is essential to keeping these people accountable.”

For more information on The Consumer Team, click here.   To listen live, Saturday from 5-7PM Central, click here.   The Consumer Team is produced by McQ Media, Dallas, Texas.


Consumer Team Radio: Best Heart Hospitals, Retirement Planning & Protecting Your Online Privacy

The Consumer Team talk radio program is on the air.   This Saturday (Aug 2, 2014), join host Pete Thomson as he brings broadcasts the latest news and research that will help you live a better consumer life.   On this week’s Consumer Team radio program:

Best Heart Hospitals In America:  Dr. John Santa from Consumer Reports will join us to discuss the new Consumer Reports article on the best heart hospitals in the US.    Regarding the interview, Pete Thomson commented, “To see Consumer Reports getting into the area of rating hospitals and health care is very exciting.  This information is badly needed.   Dr. Santa is heading this research initiative at Consumer Reports and I know he will have very valuable information to share with us on The Consumer Team.”

The Consumer Team:  Best Hospitals for Heart Surgery

The Consumer Team: Best Hospitals for Heart Surgery

Retirement Planning:  Who’s On Your Team?   You’ve heard the expression “You are judged by the company you keep”.   Jim Poe, of Texas Retirement Specialists, will join us to talk about the strategic team that you need to achieve success in retirement planning.   According to Poe, a financial planner is an important part of the team, but there are several additional professionals, or ‘strategic partners’ that you need to have on your retirement team.   Listen to learn about these people and how they can help you prepare for retirement.

Protecting Your Online Privacy:   Ernie Sprance will report on canvas fingerprinting, the latest sophisticated tool that allows marketers, hackers and identity thieves track your online activity.   He’ll also talk about how to secure an iPhone from hackers and identity thieves.

The Consumer Team is broadcast on 1080 KRLD Radio from 5-7PM (Central).   To listen live, click here.   The Consumer Team with Pete Thomson is produced by McQ Media, Dallas, Texas.

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The Consumer Team in on the air! Listen to host Pete Thomson, Saturday, 5-7PM Central on 1080 KRLD Radio.