Thursday, January 14, 2010
**FREE!***This Is Your Lucky Day!*** FREE!
And now for the prizes: Everyone wins wisdom, entertainment, information, and food for thought. No real food, just food for thought. And if you think I've misled you by my opening, then I achieved my goal. Did you come to this post because you thought you were really going to get something free?
We see it everyday. The advertising technique of offering something for nothing is used in all media. It's a sucker approach that I'm sure we all have fallen for at some time in our lives. I have no real problem with contests and promotions as long as the parties offering them are delivering what they promise and not cheating people with the outright intent to defraud. I do have a problem with sneaky tactics and two approaches particularly fit this category. First we have the false billing approach and second is the official looking correspondence approach.
The false bill looks like a bill in every way except somewhere there is the statement "This is not a bill." The statement is sometimes in bold letters and sometimes it is noticeable only after careful scrutiny. However, one could easily mistake it for a bill and send in the requested amount.
When I was managing a business I would sometimes get these types of bills from various telephone directory companies. In every way they would look like statements billing my company for a certain amount for one year's worth of directory listing. We did not advertise in any directories so I was not fooled. But what about companies where many bills are received and just paid as they arrive. In the L.A. area there are as many as five or more directories and a business may be paying for advertising in directories that they have not requested to be listed in.
Once, when I was quite busy, a uniformed man came into my warehouse and said he was there to inspect the fire extinguishers. I did not question this because the fire department and the landlord both sometimes sent out people to inspect fire safety equipment. When he finished, the man came back to my office and had me sign a statement that he had been there to check the equipment. A couple of weeks later I received in the mail a copy of the paper I had signed that had been filled in with services and charges with a due amount in excess of six hundred dollars.
After checking the other businesses around me I found that not only they too had received the same sorts of bills, but that some of them had actually paid them. I checked with the Better Business Bureau website and found that this particular company had numerous complaints against them over several years of operating in this manner. I didn't pay the bill, but how many thousands of dollars had they made from unsuspecting businesses who just accepted their bill as legitimate. The company had been gettting away with this scam for years, while also operating their regular business.
The other deceptive practice is the official looking document or advertisement. Many of you have probably seen the mortgage adjustment television advertisements that feature the clips of Barak Obama speeches. I have never watched one of these in their entirety, but I can see the deception. It looks like an official news or informational broadcast, but it is just another way to take advantage of people who are in trouble already by taking their last dollars and perhaps their homes. The advertisements play upon desperation and greed. Wasn't that how most of these people got into trouble in the first place?
Then there is the official looking letter that you get in the mail that appears that it is coming from some government agency or some other official sounding entity. Just yesterday I received a somewhat important looking letter that was labeled "IMMIGRATION POLICY INFORMATION". There were urgent sounding warnings on the envelope about not forwarding or destroying the document. At first glance it looked important, but it was a donation plea from Americans For Immigration Control. This is not as threatening or advantageous as other pieces of mail I sometimes receive--- some seem to indicate that I need to send money or something bad is going to happen while others suggest that I will be benefited in some way if I send money. I'm not sending money to any of these creeps, but how many unsuspecting individuals send money because of greed, intimidation, and plain old ignorance?
There are so many scams operating in our country and out of the country directed toward American citizens and their wallets. One has to wonder why these businesses are allowed to continue operating in this manner. This has been and continues to be one of the major reasons that so many Americans are in financial trouble. The education and warnings are out there, but apparently they don't reach the people who need this information the most. My question for today is this:
Should the government--federal, state, and local--treat these deceptive types of practices as crime and vigorously investigate and pursue the businesses operating in this way to shut them down or force them to operate in a more acceptable manner?
Deception will probably always be around, but it's a shame that those who can least afford it are frequently victims. Businesses absorb the cost of fraud and we all pay for that. It can even hurt the wealthy who are victimized. But most of the time it's the average folks who are working hard who lose money to the charlatans of the scamming business.
Have you or anyone you've known ever fallen for one of these types of scams? Have you ever taken action against the perpetrators of these scams and what happened? Can you defend any of the methods that I have described? Were you lured into my blog post by my opening come on?