Unwanted credit card reps luring students

Greg Kane

Credit card representatives have been sneaking onto campus to solicit applications from students despite stricter laws regarding the marketing practices of credit companies on California campuses.

Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation Sept. 14 that placed restrictions on how credit companies can operate on campus. The restrictions include: Mandatory registration with administration and limited marketing sites on campus, ending the practice of offering gifts to students who fill out applications, and that campuses offer credit card debt education and counseling to students.

Sac State already has similar restrictions in place, said Student Activities Director Lou Camera. The problem, he said, is that the legislation doesn?t account for the representatives who arrive on campus every day without registering. They take applications from students and hand out free merchandise until being asked to leave, he said.

“They set up on campus,” Camera said. “They lure students in (and) give gifts until they get caught. And all we can do is chase them off campus.”

Vice President of Student Affairs Shirley Uplinger said one man allegedly representing a major credit company has been asked several times to leave campus ? but not before collecting large stacks of student applications.

“He gets as many people to apply (as he can), and when we ask him to leave, he leaves,” Uplinger said.

Other Sac State employees have noticed the constant presence of a man taking credit applications in recent weeks. Camera said he?s asked the same man to leave “three or four times,” and Communication Studies Professor Linda Martin noticed a man soliciting applications and taking pictures of student Onecards, which caused her to question his motives.

“It?s one thing to have a (student?s) Social Security number, but it?s another thing to have someone?s photograph,” Martin said.

Students should be careful not to provide too much information to these people to avoid risking identity theft, she said.

Camera said the problem would not be alleviated until Campus Police and other law enforcement agencies are given the right to arrest people soliciting students on campus. Currently, all police can do is escort them off campus.

“What we need is some teeth behind the laws that allow us to (arrest) anyone who solicits on campus,” Camera said.

Uplinger said the state?s action placing restrictions is a step in the right direction, however, because of the message it sends to credit card companies.

“I have no problem with this (legislation),” Uplinger said. “I think that credit card companies are taking advantage of naivety by our students.”

Sac State already has restrictions in place that are similar to those in the legislation, Camera said. The University keeps track of all credit card booths, provides information about debt to incoming students and even found a way around the practice of giving students gifts for filling out applications.

“We require that whoever gives gifts has to give them to anyone, regardless of filling out a credit card application,” Camera said.

The University also has plans in the works for setting up committees and workshops to help teach students about the dangers of credit cards, Uplinger said. The idea came about after she heard people voicing their concerns over students getting buried in credit card debt.

“I was amazed at the energy and concern expressed by students and staff about how students are affected by debt,” Uplinger said.

Camera said the new legislation could deter some credit companies, since it would be more difficult for some students to be approved. However, as long as there are students who have some kind of income, the companies will always have potential victims.

“It may not be as lucrative to come onto the campus, but our problem is still going to be the person who sets up illegally,” Camera said.