Archive for July, 2014

Consumer Team Radio: Best & Worst Fast Food, Tax Resolution Tips & Preparing for Power Outages

Every weekend, The Consumer Team brings you the information you need know to be a successful consumer.   Join host Pete Thomson on 1080 KRLD, Saturday from 5-7PM (Central).  On this week’s program (July 26, 2014):

Pete Thomson - The Consumer Team

Pete Thomson – The Consumer Team

Best & Worst Fast Food:  Consumer Reports will join us to discuss their new reader survey that talks about the best and worst fast food restaurants in America.  From the cleanest to the cheapest to the best service, we’ll tell you about the winners and losers from this year’s survey.

Tax Resolution Tips:   The good news is that there are ways for people who owe back taxes to get a break on their tax bill.   However, the consumer needs to be very careful.   High-profile tax resolution ‘specialists’ are charging high retainers for work that a CPA can do much more inexpensively.   We’ll also give you tips for resolving tax debt for a fair price.

Preparing for Power Outages:   Ernie Sprance join us for a report on how to be prepared for a power blackout.  We’ll address what supplies you should stock up on and how to successfully ride out an extended power outage.

The Consumer Team with Pete Thomson is broadcast on CBS Radio’s 1080 KRLD on Saturdays from 5-7PM (Central).    To listen live, click here.  The Consumer Team is produced by McQ Media, Dallas, Texas.

Consumer Team Alert: Older Consumers Targeted by Scam Advertisers

I’m not against making a profit.  Not at all.   Commerce and profit have been woven into my life since I was a checker at my father’s Ben Franklin five-and-dime on Main Street in Charles City, Iowa.  The profit I’m concerned about is what an increasing number of companies are making from older consumers.  Super high margins are being made on products of questionable value.   On the surface, the commercials for gold, speed-up-your-PC software, supplements and other products look very legitimate.  And the creative is often speaking directly to the deepest emotional concerns of older consumers.   The problem with many of these products is threefold:  exorbitant profits, a business model that is not transparent and questionable product quality.   Here’s my current ‘hit list’ of questionable products and services that are targeting older consumers.

Scam Marketers Are Targeting Senior Consumers

Scam Marketers Are Targeting Senior Consumers

The Speed-Up-My-PC Scam:   This category is low-hanging fruit for the senior profiteers.   Older consumers are generally not comfortable with computer maintenance.  And several companies have taken advantage of the issue with highly questionable products.   According to ARS Technica, a leading technology website, a significant number of these products are ineffective and, in some cases, harmful to user’s computers.   From fixing ‘fake problems’ to even loading malware on user machines, the products are bad news.    According to ARS Technica, consumers of all ages are better served by free software available from Microsoft and other reputable sources.

The Senior Gold Rush:    Older consumers, largely because they’re watching political events in our country with horror, are great targets for the doom-and-gloom pitch of precious metal hustlers.  And while some of the companies do offer competitive pricing on gold and silver coins (the bait), high mark-ups on other products such as numismatic coins can hammer the consumer.   A better alternative is a precious metals ETF or a session with a retirement planner with a fiduciary interest in the client.

“Free Products” With Hidden Handling Charges:   Several years ago some direct marketer discovered that they could unload more of their cheap crap if they gave it away and then charged the consumer a ‘hidden’ handling fee.   You’ve heard the pitch, “Call now and get our product for free.  You just pay shipping and handling.”   As a result, there are currently a ton of “free” products—everything from DVDs for dealing with difficult kids to “secrets” of getting more from social security that a consumer can get for no charge, other than the handling charge that is ten times what postage would normally be for shipping the product.   The hard-core direct marketers even put a digital counter on the screen that indicates how many free widgets are still available for that day, which is amazing because the commercials are all prerecorded.

Social Security Scams:   There are, indeed, social security claiming strategies that are legitimate which will help consumers get more from Social Security benefits.   They’re free and available at a number of legitimate websites and financial planners.   Leave it to the scammers to find creative ways to charge people for free information.   One of the schemes is being run by a national magazine through a radio ad that promises to help consumers unlock hidden Social Security benefits.   In order to get the information, the consumer agrees to a trial newsletter subscription that, unless cancelled in a specific time period, becomes an annual paid subscription to several newsletters.   After this scheme gets past 30 days and the consumer is billed for the subscription, it is very difficult to cancel the subscription.   By the way, direct marketers have a name for this type of scheme.  It’s called a ‘Continuity Plan’ because it results in monthly revenue from the consumer for a product, service or subscription.

Reverse Mortgages:   The television ads tout the good life that one gets when they finally get the cash from tapping into their home equity.   Celebrity endorsers make the process look so easy and quick.  What goes unmentioned are the fees and other costs associated with a product that can leave seniors in serious financial trouble.     While the reverse mortgage product is not necessarily a scam, the marketing tactics being used to promote them are very questionable.

Final Payments Insurance:   Here’s a lovely group of scallywags who target older consumers with low incomes.   Yes, that’s right.  It’s not good enough to just screw-over seniors, they nail the ones who don’t have much to begin with.   The pitch:  Buy this insurance so when you die your funeral arrangements are covered.    The scam:  The companies don’t disclose that they’re selling insurance.   The insurance is not low cost, as advertised.  And, many consumers already have coverage in their existing insurance coverage.

Tax Debt Resolution:  Clever marketers have discovered that if they describe the IRS tax resolution process as complicated and mean enough that they can over-charge consumers who owe back taxes.   They pitch ‘secret’ government programs like some kind hidden treasure that only they can unlock.   After their marketing makes them sound like Indiana Jones taking on the IRS, these firms charge large ($10,000 and more) retainers up front to accomplish a the same job that can be done by a patient CPA for much less.

Charities:   Older consumers have hearts…big hearts.   And the non-profits know it all too well.   For every reputable charity advertising on television and radio, there’s probably 10 bad ones.   They’re bad because they handle the money you give them poorly.   Oftentimes a low percentage of gifts will reach the actual people in need, going instead to charity overhead.   Charity Navigators, a non-profit Charity watch dog group, does an outstanding job of policing the non-profit sector.   Sadly, some of the most commercially active non-profits are among the worst rated charities in the Charity Navigator ratings.   The relative high cost of advertising campaigns often result in a high cost of donor acquisition.   Put another way, when you give to a charity that is advertising on radio or television, your gift often goes to pay for the commercial that motivated you to give.

As I’ve written previously, I’d love to see broadcasters take a more aggressive role in cleansing the airwaves of scammers, especially the ones that target older consumers.  However, the current debt service of broadcast companies won’t support this kind of honesty.   And although the government would love to get move involved in the process of protecting us (EG: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), I believe it is the consumer’s responsibility, including senior consumers, to be even more vigilant in our consumer lives.   With the freedom of American commerce comes a responsibility for the consumer to be informed.   On my consumer advocacy program, The Consumer Team, we regularly talk about strategies that consumers of all ages can use to avoid being ripped off.   In my next blog, I’ll take you through the strategies.   And, best of all, there is no charge…..not even shipping and handling.

Pete Thomson

Founder/CEO

The Consumer Team

(Editor’s Note:   Pete Thomson is a 30 year veteran of broadcast media and marketing.   As a television and radio broadcaster, he worked in programming, sales, sales management and general management.    In 2011, Thomson opened McQ Media, a full service marketing and advertising firm located in Dallas, Texas.   Also in 2011, Thomson founded The Consumer Team, a consumer advocacy radio program heard weekly on CBS Radio’s KRLD in Dallas.)

 

Consumer Team Radio: Saving on Appliances, Beware of Door Knockers & Websites Design for Less

The Consumer Team is on the air Saturday from 5-7PM Central on 1080 KRLD Radio.   This Saturday (7-19-14), join Consumer Team host Pete Thomson for news, research, consumer investigations and interviews that will help you get the most from your consumer life.

Pete Thomson - The Consumer Team

Pete Thomson – The Consumer Team

On Saturday’s program:

Saving Money on Appliances:   Ernie Sprance will report on top rated appliances as well as how you can save on an appliance purchase.

Door Knockers Invade Dallas-Ft. Worth:   Spring storms brought a high number of contractor scams into North Texas.   Unlicensed and uninsured contractors have been working effected neighborhoods going door-to-door offering highly discounted or ‘too good to be true’ packages to homeowners.  Listen to learn what questions to ask anyone you’re interviewing to do work on your home.

Website Design for Less:    Don’t overpay for web design.  For savvy shoppers, it’s possible to get a great looking, multi-page, professional website built on a limited budget.   We’ll give you the details this Saturday!

For more information on The Consumer Team go to http://www.myconsumerteam.com   To listen live, click here.   The Consumer Team is produced by McQ Media, Dallas, Texas.

 

Consumer Team Radio: Celebrating Our Consumer Freedom

As we celebrate our Nation’s 238th Birthday, it’s a good time to ponder and appreciate the freedoms we have here in America.   In spite of the tremendous challenges that our country faces, freedom still rings in 2014.   Yet, with freedom, comes great responsibility.  As consumers, we need to be ever vigilant.  Being aware of consumer trends, research and scams isn’t just a hobby for the wise coupon cutting penny-pinchers.   Being plugged in is essential to consumer success.

The Consumer Team:  Celebrate Your Consumer Freedom

The Consumer Team: Celebrate Your Consumer Freedom

In America, the same freedom that we enjoy as consumers is also given to business.   Companies have the freedom to produce, market and sell the products that they choose, and that includes the merchandise of low quality.  Welcome to the consumer marketplace where we have the responsibility of choice.   And, as much as I despise the scammers in our midst, including many who need to be prosecuted and put out of business, I think we need to be very careful not to remove the freedoms of the marketplace.   And free consumers we must maintain the power to choose how we spend our money.

I’m troubled as I watch government agencies like The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, FDA, FTC and host of others take away freedoms that should remain in the marketplace.   And while I support some of the CFPB’s work, I believe we need to be very careful of not over-regulating the consumer marketplace.   With regulation comes less freedom and generally higher consumer costs.   We, the people and not the US government, should decide whether or not a company is successful.  It’s called voting with our wallet.

Over the next few days, maybe as you’re scanning the shelves at the grocery store or marveling at all the high tech toys at Best Buy or on Amazon, take a moment and appreciate the fact that all these products, all this ingenuity (both good and bad) is a result of freedom in America.   And remember that, in your life as both a citizen and a consumer, your vigilance is what keeps freedom alive.

Happy Fourth of July from all of us on The Consumer Team.

 

Pete Thomson

Founder – The Consumer Team

Saturdays – 5 to 7PM (Central) on 1080 KRLD

Listen Live:  Click Here

The Consumer Team is produced by McQ Media, Dallas, Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

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