The National Honor Roll Scam

UPDATE: Since this article was posted,new information about the NHR has come to light. To read this information, click here.
These happy students are smiling because they have been inducted into the National Honor Roll. The National Honor Roll is NOT the same as the National Honor Society, a legitimate organization that recognizes academic excellence.

The National Honor Roll is a marketing scam.

THE SCAM

Today, we received a letter from the National Honor Roll, offering my oldest daughter the opportunity to be inducted into the Roll. My daughter’s school’s name was featured prominently on the letter, lending it an air of legitimacy, and at first making us think the letter had come from her school.

Of course, in order to be inducted into the National Honor Roll, my daughter must complete a detailed survey about her interests. If we want, we can buy the book that will list her name and bio. We can give the Honor Roll addresses of her grandparents who may want to buy the book. We can add a picture to your profile, but that will cost extra.

“Please”, I hear you thinking. “Don’t tell me you fell for that!”

Of course, I didn’t fall for it. As Jean Hagan said in Singing in the Rain: “Wadda’ think I am? Dumb or somethin’?”

But that’s not the real scam, you see. It’s just the tip of the iceburg. Because the National Honor Roll is a front for a nationwide mailing list of young high school students. A mailing list that the Honor Roll and its partner organizations then sell for profit to whoever will buy.

Each year, thousands of unsuspecting high school students are offered induction into the National Honor Roll. What is the qualification for this prestigious award for academic excellence? Not too stringent – a B average or above.

Here’s a link to the privacy policy of the National Honor Roll, and here’s what it says: From time to time, National Honor Roll may combine the information we receive online with outside records to enhance our ability to offer you products or services that may be of interest to you.

THE SCAM BEGINS IN YOUR CHILD’S CLASSROOM

How does the National Honor Roll find out your child’s name, address and personal information? Your child’s school provides it. That’s right. The school provides it, along with data mined from your child as part of in-class surveys handed out and collected by your child’s teacher. In my daughter’s case, she now remembers being asked to complete a survey in her Math class earlier this year. She was told it was for college.

I can’t entirely blame my daughter’s teacher (Well, I do blame him a bit). Most likely he thought that the survey results were being used to offer his students scholarships and college information. The surveys are sent to teachers from a “non-profit” organization called the Educational Reseach Center of America. ERCA is associated with something called the Student Marketing Group.

SMG is a direct marketing company that targets the youth market. ERCA does the dirty work for SMG, sneaking into our schools to mine our children’s personal data, all in the name of harmless surveys. To keep up their front, ERCA does publish the results of these surveys on their web site, and claims to send them to colleges, who probably file them in the wastebasket.

Here’s a link to ERCA’s privacy policy, and here’s some of what it says: Personally identifiable information also will be made available to certain other entities nationwide that wish to contact high school students or to help others do so. .. these include businesses that market interesting products and services to students and student achievement recognition organizations.

THE LEGAL RESPONSE

Elliot Spitzer filed for judgement against ERCA and SMG in 2003 for fraudulent and deceptive business practices. The Federal Trade Commission issued a judgement and a consumer alert against ERCA in 2003.Depite these rulings, it looks to me as if the ERCA and National Honor Roll are still up to their dirty tricks in 2006.

IT’S ALREADY TOO LATE FOR US

Even though I didn’t get caught in the National Honor Roll scam, it doesn’t matter. My daughter’s personal information is already on ERCA’s database, collected by her math teacher, and now being sent out who knows where. I have no idea if my daughter signed something on that survey that permitted her information to be used, and neither does she.

What upsets me is that we parents trust our children’s teachers and schools to protect them. And they are failing in that duty. I know it is not just my daughter’s school that has failed in this regard. These companies are thriving because they have found inroads into our schools nationwide, using the educational system as a marketing goldmine.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Feel free to link or email this post, or to pass this information on to anyone you know who has a child in school. And not just if they are in high school. The ERCA has collected personal information from children as young as 10 years old.

Tell your PTA and your school principal. Tell your child’s teachers. Work with your child’s school to develop policies that protect your child’s and your family’s privacy. Help develop curricula that teach kids (and their teachers) how to know when their privacy is being threatened or their personal information mined for profit. And simply, tell your kids not to fill out any surveys at school without them being sent home first.

Stop your child’s school from unwittingly mining your children’s personal information for profit-making entities.

UPDATE: Click here for new information about the National Honor Roll.

______________________________

I just realized that this the second time this week that someone has tried to involve me in a scheme that invades personal privacy. (See April 3 post) Okay, who wants to be third?

Category: Considerations

109 Responses to The National Honor Roll Scam

  1. As a teacher myself. I am frustrated because I keep getting spam emails from this company. I know their scam, and have done everything I can to stop getting the emails, but to no avail. I am reporting them to the Better Business Bureau (which they claim to be a member of).

  2. Hey-o. I’m a six grader and recently received this letter. It was not from NHR, it was from usaa, or United States Achievement Academy. It seemed fishy to me, and when I showed it to my friend, he said it was scam. So I did some research and ppl were saying that it was scam and that it was not scam. I stumbled on this site and I am now asking: is usaa scam or not?

  3. Thanks, Ms/Mrs. Polaneczky. I’m gonna talk to my parents about this, who where really proud of me. Hate to burst their bubble, but it’s the truth.

  4. Okay. Going into 10th grade and I got an email from the National Society of High School Scholars. They’ve got an address and everything but what’s really shady is their membership entrance. I have to give them credit card info (already weird, $60 one time) and other info (rest of it ain’t to bad). I would procrastinate but the deadline is 5 days away. What should I do?

    • Marq –
      NSHSS looks much more selective than the national honor roll and has some well known members on their advisory board. Still, I don’t know much other than what their website tells me. I would ask your college advisor on this one.

      Best of luck to you!

      Peggy

  5. I really wish my father would have realized this sooner – I showed him this page, and he’s a little upset now.

    NHR scammed my father in 2006 – he payed 50 dollars for a plaque, and my great grandmother bought the damn book. I thought it seemed a little fishy, but we didn’t think anything of it.

    Needless to say, since we gave them money then, I was then sent ANOTHER letter in 2007. Dad filled out the information and sent it in, but this time nobody ordered anything. Can you guess what happened the next year? I’ll give you a hint: They didn’t send me anything.

    I just feel horrible because we fell for it back then. Granted, I was only 14 and didn’t pay much attention to anything… but really, if it’s as big a deal as they claimed it was, they wouldn’t take a B average.

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