CHICAGO (CBS) — A story about a nurse with $60,000 in student loans getting taken by a debt relief company touched a nerve with CBS 2 viewers. Morning Insider Lauren Victory kept digging, and uncovered quite the web connected to the company.
Why would Christina Katschke’s loan details and personal information be on a website that hadn’t loaded properly in two weeks, and now boots up under a company she’s never heard of?
Katschke paid $699 to National Credit Protection to get rid of the $60,000 she owed on student loans. But the company didn’t pay a dime of her debt, and wouldn’t answer her calls or emails.
The web portal containing her documents didn’t work for weeks. When she tried to access it through a different email, she found her information listed with an entirely different company, Freedom Financial Aid.
“So they’ve changed their name and are probably just getting a new group of people to be deceitful to,” Katschke said.
It was a bold statement, but when CBS 2 called Freedom Financial Aid, the woman on the line said she didn’t know what happened to National Credit Protection, and she wasn’t sure if her non-profit was related.
Non-profit? Why does the Freedom Financial Aid website say document preparation, and include reviews that mention pricing? And why does the phone number also pop up for something called the SL Help Center?
Contact information on that website also links to National American University Loan Forgiveness, and Heritage College Loan Forgiveness, and Academy of Art University Loan Forgiveness.
Katschke didn’t know why they had her Social Security number, birthdate, and address.
CBS 2 shared the findings with Governors State University professor William Kresse, known as Professor Fraud.
First, he analyzed National Credit Protection.
“They have a trademark, but it’s not a registered trademark. So we can’t go through the trademark bureau at that,” he said.
Some parts of the website showed the connection wasn’t private.
“That’s a red flag. That shouldn’t be associated with this kind of website at all,” Kresse said.
His assessment of Freedom Financial Aid wasn’t much different.
“I would not be surprised if in a few weeks or months this website’s gone and they’ve got a new website that it links to under a new name, under a new company,” he said. “Very often they will hire people and give them scripts to read.”
Kresse couldn’t say for certain these are scams, but he doubted Katschke would ever get her money back.
He also said she won’t be the only victim caught in this web.
The Illinois Attorney General’s office said nothing is on file about the interconnected companies uncovered in this case.