Originally created 07/11/98

Students suckered into buying ID card



ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia college representatives moved quickly to warn prospective students of a company selling thousands of $25 "college cards" in an aggressive nationwide sales pitch that touted the cards as necessary identification for student services.

Only about 50 students in Georgia were fooled, according to the state Division of Consumer Affairs.

The National College Registration Board of Princeton, N.J., has agreed to repay nearly $150,000 it made on the cards in 35 states, including Georgia. The board set up a World Wide Web site and mailed letters to 1.8 million high school seniors and college students promoting the "Campus Card."

"The Campus Card is the student identification card issued to all registered college students," the official-looking letter read. "It is required for many services and purchasing privileges at whichever college or university your student chooses to attend."

The card has no connection to the colleges and universities listed in its marketing materials, company founder Matthew Levenson has acknowledged.

"We got calls in the middle of spring from students asking about it," said John Albright, associate director of admissions at the University of Georgia. "We immediately shared word with responsible parties, counselors, folks at the visitors center. I would assume some people got suckered."

Tryllis Hallford, a spokeswoman for the Division of Consumer Affairs, said most Georgia teens were spared in the recent ad campaign by the quick actions of the division and by the wary college representatives who contacted students about the "essential" card.

"They had only begun to solicit," Ms. Hallford said. "Many of the universities were pro-active. We got word out prior to deadline."

Those Georgians who weren't spared will receive a share of the $1,000 reimbursement to the state, she said. Youngsters' familiarity with debit-card solicitations played a part in the scheme's short-term nationwide success, she said.

Linda Patrylo of Atlanta dashed out a check to the company, thinking that her daughter, Courtney, an incoming University of Georgia freshman, needed the campus card for discounts, book purchases and other services.

"It (the letter the company mailed to students) said it was necessary," Mrs. Patrylo said. "We both fell for it. We won't fall again."