West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw announced today that the rogue website “GIBill.com” will be transferred to the control of the Department of Veterans Affairs and $2.5 million will be paid to states by the website’s owner as part of a consumer protection settlement with 20 state attorneys general in a bipartisan, multistate enforcement action.
Attorney General McGraw, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and the other attorneys general claimed that QuinStreet, Inc., the owner of “GIBill.com,” violated state consumer protection laws by operating websites with misleading and deceptive domain names. The websites targeted military service members by giving the appearance that they were operated, owned or endorsed by the United States government or military.
“Seeing a gold mine in the service members’ federal benefits, this company preyed on soldiers and their families by deceptively attempting to direct them to for-profit colleges,” McGraw said. “As a veteran myself, I am sensitive to the concerns of those who have served our country and will act to protect them against fraud of any kind.”
As part of the settlement, QuinStreet will relinquish ownership of GIBill.com to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which will utilize the domain to promote the GIBill program and educate service members about the benefits available under the program. QuinStreet will also cease to use any domain names that include “GI Bill” and pay the states a total of $2.5 million to settle consumer claims.
The settlement is a result of ongoing investigations into the recruiting and business practices of the education services industry. The states found that the QuinStreet websites gave the misleading impression that the schools listed as “eligible GI Bill schools”–a list that consisted of only QuinStreet clients–were the only schools at which the veterans’ benefits could be utilized.
Holly Patraeus, Assistant Director for Servicemen Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, applauded the settlement for protecting service members’ GI benefits. “These new protections will ensure that the veterans looking online to learn more about the GI Bill will find accurate information about the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifices for our country,” Patraeus said.
Consumer advocates have seen for-profit colleges intensify their recruitment of veterans since 2008 when Congress enacted the Post 9/11 GI Bill, making billions of dollars in educational benefits available for veterans and their families. Of 20 for-profit colleges analyzed by the U.S. Senate HELP Committee, military educational benefits increased from $66.6 million in 2006 to a projected $521.2 million in 2010, an increase of 683 percent. Military personnel are attractive potential students for-profit colleges since their benefits don’t count toward the 90 percent cap on Federal Department of Education funding.
Read the full story at Office of the West Virginia Attorney General – Press Releases.