Last week, it was revealed that an alleged "authority" on student loans, and what students do with them, was not only fake: "he" was also steering students who approached "him" for advice towards a student loan refinancing service operated by "his" creators. As far as I'm concerned, that's not only false advertising, but fraud by any other name.
Drew Cloud is everywhere. The self-described journalist who specializes in student-loan debt has been quoted in major news outlets, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, and is a fixture in the smaller, specialized blogosphere of student debt.
. . .
Drew Cloud’s story was simple: He founded [The Student Loan Report], an "independent, authoritative news outlet" covering all things student loans, "after he had difficulty finding the most recent student loan news and information all in one place."
He became ubiquitous on that topic. But he’s a fiction, the invention of a student-loan refinancing company.
After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. "Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education," wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU.
. . .
Cloud was not the only facade. The website’s affiliation with LendEDU was also not previously disclosed.
There's more at the link. Recommended reading.
My attitude towards this sort of thing is very simple. Mr. Matherson is, by his own admission, a liar. By using a fake personality to steer inquiries towards his own business interests, he is, in my opinion, defrauding those who sought genuine advice. In case you think I'm going too far with that, please consider this dictionary definition of "fraud":
1. deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage.
2. a particular instance of such deceit or trickery: mail fraud; election frauds.
3. any deception, trickery, or humbug: That diet book is a fraud and a waste of time.
4. a person who makes deceitful pretenses; sham; poseur.
I wish I could be sure that the authorities will investigate Mr. Matherson's conduct, and his company, with a view to prosecution for this fraud. Unfortunately, this sort of thing has become so widespread that they probably won't, because they can't possibly police every business, every Web site, and every alleged "authority" or "expert" plying their trade. There are many other "sharp practices" that may not amount to actual dishonesty, but are nevertheless an attempt to manipulate our perception of reality, or deceive us as to the true nature of a business. (For example, some years ago I pointed to the example of a group of online ammunition vendors. I still refuse to do business with any of them, and continue to recommend that approach to my friends.)
In the absence of official action, it's up to us, the users of the Internet, to pass on the word about such practices, and see to it that at least our circle of friends and acquaintances are warned about them. At least, in that way, we can protect our own. Needless to say, I shall be strongly recommending to my friends that they avoid doing business of any kind with Mr. Matherson and/or his colleagues and/or any of his companies, organizations or activities, current or future. I trust my readers will draw their own conclusions.