Archive for the ‘Charity Scams’ Category

Consumer Team Launches Series on Senior Scams

(DALLAS-FT. WORTH, TX)   The Consumer Team talk radio program today announced the creation of a multi-part series focusing on senior scams.  Pete Thomson, host of The Consumer Team, announced the new series.  He commented, “Consumer Team has been addressing scams targeting senior consumers for several years.  Our new senior scam series of broadcasts will address a number of aspects of elder or senior scams.”

Senior Scams - The Consumer Team Investigates

Senior Scams – The Consumer Team Investigates

Thomson said that seniors are a huge target for fraud and even violence.  He said, “Seniors are a perfect target for bad guys.   They have money saved.  The bad guys know that and they’ll do almost anything to steal from them.  In our series on Consumer Team we’re going to try to arm our listeners with information that will protect them and their loved ones from fraud targeting seniors.  One thing that will never change is the greed of the criminal.  However, with the right information consumers can fight back.  That information will be our focus on Consumer Team.”

A recent Consumer Reports article estimates that senior fraud is big business.  The publication estimates the annual cost to be around $3 billion per year.   Tobie Stanger of Consumer Reports who contributed to the recent story will be a featured guest on several Consumer Team interview segments.  Thomson added, “Tobie Stanger’s work in elder fraud and senior scams is outstanding.  I look forward to having her on Consumer Team to add valuable detail to this important story.”   Thomson said that Stanger will review law changes that are designed to better protect senior consumers.

Consumer Team is broadcast Saturdays from 5-7 PM (Central) on CBS Radio’s 1080 KRLD in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas.   Pete Thomson is a 40 year veteran of the broadcasting industry and has worked in consumer advocacy journalism for over 10 years.  The Consumer Team with Pete Thomson is produced by McQ Media, Dallas, TX.

Wounded Warrior Project & The Shriners Hospitals: A Tale of Two Charities

(DALLAS-FT. WORTH, TX)    Two of the most visible charities in America couldn’t be more differently wired.   To watch their high profile advertising campaigns, both Wounded Warrior Project and The Shriners Hospitals for Children appear to be highly focused and effective at bringing help to their target recipients.    Yet, and according to The Consumer Team and Charity Navigators, just one of the non-profits is being truly effective with their efforts.    The winner:  The Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Rating Charities - Saturday on The Consumer Team

Rating Charities – Saturday on The Consumer Team

Pete Thomson, host of The Consumer Team on CBS Radio’s KRLD in Dallas, citing Charity Navigator’s research, stated, “From 30,000 feet, Wounded Warrior Project and The Shriners Hospitals for Children look very similar.   They’re on-air creative is award winning and they’re helping 2 groups of people, our war heroes and children with serious health issues, who most people really want to help.   Yet, when you peel back the onion a bit more, the non-profits looks very different.   Based on the research of Charity Navigators, The Shriners Hospitals for Children are doing a better job getting donated support to people in need.”

Charity Navigators is a New York City based non-profit that rates the financial responsibility of non-profit organizations.   Sandra Miniutti, VP/CFO of Charity Navigators, has been a regular guest on The Consumer Team.   According to Thomson, his recent interview with Ms. Miniutti details the differences between Wounded Warrior Project and The Shriners Hospitals for Children.   Thomson added, “We really like the Charity Navigator’s on-line app because it gives consumers the ability to quickly vet a charity before they give a gift.   In the case of Wounded Warrior Project, one quickly sees a charity that is top heavy in administrative and promotional costs, which come at the expense of the war heroes that they’re trying to help.   We don’t dispute the mission of Wounded Warrior Project,  just the way they’re carrying it out.   On the other hand, when you vet The Shriners Hospitals for Children on Charity Navigators, you see a charity that is much better balanced.   They’re spending a lot of money in media for promotion and fund raising, but it isn’t detracting from their core mission.”

Pete Thomson and The Consumer Team have been champions of Charity Navigators for several years.   According to Thomson, the realities of today’s marketplace make an organization like Charity Navigators essential to making responsible donations.   Thomson added, “Financial management problems inside of charities is certainly not a new issue.  However, the internet age, eCommerce tools and very effective television commercials have created a real opportunity for virtually anyone to call themselves a charity, look credible and raise serious money from consumers who want to help.”

Thomson says that consumers should vet any charity, large or small, before giving a gift.   He added, “Sadly, some of the biggest non-profits, the ones with the household names, are not good managers of the money they receive.   I believe that using Charity Navigators is essential to making sure that a financial gift will be put to good use.”

Thomson said that he believes that responsible charities should be willing to open their books to organizations like Charity Navigators.   He added, “We believe that all non-profits should be transparent and offer their financials for review by Charity Navigators.  For Christian non-profits, the ECFA is recommended.  If a charity chooses not to disclose their financials, I believe it should give consumers a reason to reconsider giving a gift.”

For more information on charitable giving, Thomson recommends that consumers read The Consumer Team Guide to Charitable Giving.   “Our Guide is a good place to start”, Thomson added, “And it doesn’t take very long to do some digging either.   Devote 15 minutes to the project, and you’ll be able to make a much more informed choice regarding your next donation to a charity.”

The Consumer Team with Pete Thomson is broadcast Saturdays from 5-7 PM (Central) on CBS Radio’s 1080 KRLD in Dallas.   The Consumer Team is produced by McQ Media Inc.

 

 

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 Alert: Be Cautious When Giving to Charities

(DALLAS-FT. WORTH, TX)    As Americans prepare to make end-of-year contributions to charities, The Consumer Team radio program is warning consumers to thoroughly check out non-profits before giving.   According to Consumer Team program host Pete Thomson, generous consumers are often unaware of issues that impact a non-profit’s ability to serve people in need.  Thomson stated, “On the surface charities tell a story of helping people in significant ways.  Sadly, many charities don’t live up to the promises they make.  From out of control overhead to high CEO salaries to fraud, many high profile charities have serious issues which prevent them from helping people in need.  Because of these issues, consumers have to be very discriminating before they give a financial gift.”

The Consumer Team Urges Caution When Giving to Charities

The Consumer Team Urges Caution When Giving to Charities

According to Thomson, The Consumer Team radio program will air a series of special segments focusing charitable giving.  Thomson added, “The Consumer Team will investigate charitable giving from several perspectives.  First, we’ll educate our listeners regarding the metrics that are used to measure charity effectiveness.  Concepts like percentage of overhead and CEO compensation need to be understood in order to measure a charity’s effectiveness.   Secondly, we’ll be educating listeners regarding tools that they can use to research non-profits.”

Sandra Miniutti, VP/CFO of Charity Navigator, will be joining Thomson for several of The Consumer Team special segments.   Charity Navigator is a New Jersey based non-profit that offers ratings and research regarding the fiscal performance of non-profit organizations.   Commenting on Charity Navigator, Thomson said, “Charity Navigator is to non-profits as Consumer Reports is to consumer products.   We’ll be including their input throughout our series on effective giving to charities.”    Thomson credited Charity Navigator with successfully establishing metrics of measurement for the non-profit world.   Thomson added, “Before Charity Navigator, there wasn’t a reliable and objective database of information on charity performance.   And, several high profile non-profits were unchallenged when it came to serious financial issues within their organizations.   Charity Navigators has brought this critical information to the forefront of consumer awareness.   Non-profits are now accountable because of Charity Navigator.”

The Consumer Team is broadcast Saturdays from 5-7 PM on 1080 KRLD Radio, Dallas, Texas.   The Consumer Team talk radio program is one of the most listened to local programs dealing with consumer news, research and trends.   Thomson says that his passion for consumer advocacy started during his childhood growing up in the Midwest.   Both of his parents were business owners in Charles City, Iowa.  According to Thomson, seeing successful business and customer relationships fueled his interest in helping connect consumers with reputable business owners.  He said, “Growing up in Charles City, I saw the special relationship that can exist between business and the customer.  Our goal on The Consumer Team is to first educate our listeners regarding the issues that can impact their success as a consumer.  Beyond that, we strive to connect our listeners with great businesses who truly understand what it means to serve the customer.”

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

 

 

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