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StudentUniverse an email error or a scam?

Nov. 12, 2014 thousands of people received an email similar to this one:

I also received such an email, at first I panicked because I had not heard of StudentUniverse and I know I did not book any travel arrangements through them. The reason for my panic; I have already had my debit and credit cards replaced twice due to data breaches from stores like Homedepot and Target. I had just relearned my pin codes and yet here I was looking at another data breach.

Before I went into full cancel all my cards lock down, I looked up StudentUniverse on the web. I found their website and I compared the 1-800 number to the one in the email. The numbers matched so I thought I would give them a call, I tried nine times the number was busy; this did not bode well. I proceeded to access my accounts and reviewed recent and past activity, luckily I did not see anything suspicious and my banks did not report any pending transactions.

Then I started to get mad, mad because here is this company contacting me pretty much claiming I booked a trip through them. A company I never heard of which has enough information on me in their database to compile a user account, I never signed up for. A few hours later I get another email from the same company:

Well that should clear everything up right? Sorry our bad, everything is fixed, LOL! Ummm, no it is not fixed. Like many people who found the StudentUniverse Facebook page I had questions: How does StudentUniverse have a user account in my name? Where did they get my information from? Why do they have enough information on me that it is possible to send a service confirmation email when I have never used their services? How did StudentUniverse get my email address? The email address this was sent to is not used outside of my school, I only use it to correspond with my teachers, no one else.

So does StudentUniverse pay schools money for access to the student's emails? Does StudentUniverse use data crawler programs to capture email addresses? How did an error happen where people who have never signed up to use StudentUniverse suddenly get an email that is normally sent to someone with a StudentUniverse account? Why does StudentUniverse have user accounts for people who have never used their services?

StudentUniverse claims they were not hacked but they do not say how or why the error occurred. They also have not addressed any of the additional questions which have been raised because of this erroneous email. StudentUniverse is accredited with the Better Business Bureau snapshots of their complaints and customer reviews are below:

This could be a case of "oops", but the company is being hush, hush about why the error occurred or why they have information on people who do not have user accounts; which makes it hard for people to trust the "nothing to see here move along" attitude StudentUniverse is displaying. 

Scam or not this error leaves a bad impression on many people. This email error proves StudentUniverse has a database on non-members which they shouldn't have because they do not have a business relationship with these non-members and do not have an agreement with them to store or use their personal information.

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