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Avoid Late-Night Infomercial Scams

This article was written by in Consumer. 16 comments.


I’m usually awake late at night, and I’ve occasionally helped myself shut out distracting noise late at night by keeping the television audio on at a low volume. Invariably, the late night programming is centered around show-length commercials for a variety of products. Kitchen devices seem to be some of the most popular products sold late at night, but I’ll occasionally subject my fading consciousness to annoying money-making products. There are big promises, like making thousands of dollars in days or retiring a millionaire in just a few years.

Invariably, the commercials feature testimonials from people who have participated in the program, and show these participants surrounded by all the expected trappings of luxury, hoping to take advantage of the typical greed of the American consumer.

One of these companies has been sued by the Federal Trade Commission for making misleading claims about the amount of money one could be expected to earn by using their products. But wait; there’s more. The feds are also going after one of the company’s customers who appears in the commercial, a woman who lied about how much money she made participating in the program. This is the first time a testimonial has been targeted in an FTC suit.

Most of the money people earn with the product and company targeted in this suit — Russell Dalbey’s “Winning in the Cash Flow Business” — made money not by the techniques taught in the program but by selling the program to other customers. This is a typical multi-level marketing scheme, where the bulk of the income comes from the process, not the product. The product is irrelevant; the customers are the salespeople, and the product could be switched with any other product and the business plan wouldn’t change.

Regardless of the business plan, the FTC is only concerned with the misleading claims of profiting in minutes, without explaining that customers need to keep paying the company for marketing materials — products that allow customers to become salespeople and continue spreading the product while sending income up the side of the pyramid.

Products like this aren’t limited to late-night infomercials. Whenever you consider buying an “information product” from an online site, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is the information not available elsewhere for free?
  • Are you being asked to make money for yourself and for the company by becoming a salesperson rather than just a customer?
  • Are the company’s profits based on affiliate or downline sales?
  • Do the customers’ testimonials sound too good to be true?
  • What are the hidden costs, like products you’ll need to buy?
  • Do you have to continue to “upgrade” in order to receive all the promised benefits?

FTC via WalletPop

Published or updated June 6, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Money Beagle

The best advice here is the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

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avatar SteveDH

Kevin Trudeau is the king of such nonsense. Just look up his name on Wikipedia and scroll down to the chapter on Legal Proceedings …… wow. Why not try an “Oldies” radio station to shut out those distractions ;-) As for those popular kitchen tools – the best story I heard was the food chopper that was removed from the stations after “authorities” discovered they were using 220 volts during the commercial rather than the 110 it was designed for. No wonder it would chop anything!

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avatar Moneydrain.net

I have to admit, one of their magic bullet blender things was awful tempting the night I saw it. Still is.

Of course there were the golden years in the early 90′s of that “Amazing Discoveries” show, those are just classic :)

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avatar Evan

Have it…and its awesome

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avatar Moneydrain.net

Thanks Evan, that totally doesn’t help prevent me from wanting to buy one :D

I’m still considering it…

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avatar Jenna

One does not have to stay up at night to be pestered by this. It seems that we have become a society of non-stop marketing, always looking for “the greater fool”.I no longer can bear to listen to the radio, read a magazine, watch tv, etc. etc. Even after asking for no junk mail, I recycle loads of postal waste each week. How much more can we stand?

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avatar DonnaFreedman ♦80 (Newbie)

I think the use of “but wait, there’s more” was a nice touch. ;-)

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avatar Harm

Yeah, Mr. Trudeau is one of the slimiest crooks out there. Funny to watch his airhead
bimbo feed him lines that he can pretend to ‘answer’….it’s a swindler’s dream…
And on the subject of Russ Dalbey, is there anything more pathetic than D grade
‘celebrity’ Gary Collins kissing his….feet…in the commercials?

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avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

Sounds like the real late-night entertainment happens after Fallon, Letterman and Leno. I guess I should stay up later to watch the real comedy shows. LOL

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avatar Tax Accountant NJ

Anyone that tells you that you can get cash the easy way or throw you an unbelievable deal of 1 dollar for an entire island is guaranteed to be a scam yet people fall over and over for them, god knows why.

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avatar Car Negotiation Coach

I was so tempted by Ron Popeil’s deal on steak knives for months. It seemed to good to be true. Well it was! Sure you can get a bazillion knives for next to nothing, but what they don’t tell you is that the knife holder and it’s shipping cost $100. And you really can’t do without it and just lay all those knives on a counter.

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avatar KNS Financial ♦404 (Nickel)

It amazes me how many times we allow our greed to take over and make us ignore common sense.

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avatar qixx ♦1,890 (Half-Dollar)

Staying up until the only thing on the TV is infomercials is ignoring common sense. No buying needed.

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avatar Harm

Very true, I should have gone to bed long before the
infomercials come on, but there IS entertainment value
in watching them sometimes. If one is inspired, you can
call the 800 number and tell them they’re full of it personally, LoL.

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avatar Debbie Chioffe ♦260 (Nickel)

I have to tell you I have always disliked infomercials. My regularly open mind just puts up a wall at the mere sight of one. For me they are not even good for a laugh as they are just so full of bologna and set to mislead less savvy people into their clutches. I have, however, gotten very amused not only with this article but especially at the comments! Thanks for making me smile!
P.S. To those of you set on purchasing one of the kitchy products, you can save on the horrendous shipping costs and even see it before you buy it by going to the “As Seen on T.V.” store. These are brick and mortar buildings and they have them here in Cali..maybe even near you. I have been in them, as they are way less offensive to me then the infomercials. They have all the gadgets that you see advertised and sometimes on sale.

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avatar skylog ♦368 (Nickel)

maybe it is just me, or us, but it is hard for me to imagine anyone ever wanting to purchase any, if not all, of the late deals. especially because i can never get to the phone “in the next 10 minutes.”

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