Archive for the ‘Social Security’ Category

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 Advocate Pete Thomson: Healthcare Scams Targeting Retirees

(DALLAS-FT. WORTH, TX)     New healthcare laws have brought much uncertainty to consumers, especially retirees.  According to consumer advocacy journalist and radio host Pete Thomson, new scams are surfacing that are taking advantage of the uncertainty in the marketplace.   Thomson’s weekly radio program, which airs on CBS Radio’s KRLD in Dallas, will focus on healthcare scams on Saturday, July 27, 2013 from 5-7PM (Central).

Pete Thomson - The Consumer Team

Thomson said that the new healthcare scams are reaching consumers primarily through the internet and telemarketing.   He added, “Scammers are targeting seniors.  They’ll often call or email, claiming to be with the federal government, and say they need to confirm a social security number.  Other times they’ll call offering a special deal on low cost healthcare coverage.   The scammers are always looking for personal information that they can turn into cash.”

Thomson claims that the uncertainty surrounding healthcare is helping the scammers succeed.  He said, “Our nation’s healthcare system is about to be in transition and people, especially retirees, are concerned about the future of their healthcare.  The people behind the scams love this uncertainty.   They’re selling security and solutions in a very uncertain environment.”

According to Thomson, the first line of defense again healthcare scams is to simply hang up or delete the email.   Beyond that, he says, reaching out to seniors who are isolated is very important.   Thomson added, “Seniors often become isolated from the mainstream marketplace.  We believe that reaching out to seniors in our families and neighborhoods is an important part of defeating this type of crime.”

Thomson credited Consumer Team New York City reporter Ernie Sprance for his contributions to the special coverage on healthcare scams.   He said, “Ernie did an outstanding job of digging into this issue.  He’ll be filing two different on-air reports on The Consumer Team.   After listening to this information, listeners will be better prepared to deal with this growing fraud.”

Thomson’s Consumer Team talk radio program is one of the most listened to local programs dealing with consumer news, research, trends and issues.   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.

 

Consumer Team: Getting More From Social Security

(DALLAS-FT. WORTH, TX)      Listeners to The Consumer Team radio program are finding more money in Social Security benefits thanks to a new software and report that is being introduced on the program.   The new software, being made available by Texas Retirement Specialists, is helping listeners discover new, incremental amounts of Social Security dollars that are above and beyond what listeners are typically expecting.

Texas Retirement Specialists - Offering Free Social Security Report

Jim Poe with Texas Retirement Specialists is The Consumer Team’s expert in investing and retirement planning.  Poe commented on the Social Security software.  He said, “We’re excited to be able to help open up the eyes of consumers regarding how to get the most from Social Security.   Previously, most people believed that the wise thing to do was get benefits at the earliest age possible.  With the help of our free software, folks can see what’s possible if they are more strategic in the sign up process.   We have listeners that are finding anywhere from a few thousand dollars up to $399,000.   It has been exciting to see people benefiting from this report.”

Pete Thomson, consumer advocate and host of The Consumer Team, said that the listener response has been extraordinary.   Thomson added, “The response to Texas Retirement Specialists free Social Security report has been really exciting.  All the information is on the Texas Retirement Specialists website, http://www.texasretirementspecialists.com.”

Even though the process of identifying extra Social Security dollars is quick, Jim Poe said that getting correctly signed up for Social Security can require additional assistance.   Poe added, “Once a person determines how much extra money they can qualify for, we encourage them to call us for help in signing up properly.   We’re excited to help our listeners and clients maximize their Social Security benefits.”

The Consumer Team talk radio program is broadcast Saturdays from 5-7PM (Central) on 1080 KRLD Radio, Dallas-Ft. Worth.  Jim Poe is a regular contributor to The Consumer Team in the areas of financial planning, investing and retirement.  Pete Thomson called Jim Poe an integral part of The Consumer Team.  Thomson continued, “Retirement, financial planning and investments are at the top of our agenda on The Consumer Team.   To have Jim Poe and his team at Texas Retirement Specialists on the program every week is huge resource for our listeners in North Texas.  Jim Poe’s background, experience and integrity have made him one of our most trusted resources.”

Texas Retirement Specialists have North Texas offices in Dallas and Ft. Worth.   They can be reached at 888-774-4492.  For more information on The Consumer Team and to listen live, go to http://www.myconsumerteam.com   The Consumer Team is produced by McQ Media Inc, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas.

 

How To Claim More Money From Social Security

The Consumer Team talk radio program will air a special segment regarding new software that is allowing consumers to get more money in Social Security benefits.   Jim Poe of Texas Retirement Specialists will be a featured guest on the program.  The Consumer Team will air Saturday, September 29th, 3-4PM (Central) on 1080 KRLD Radio in Dallas.

Pete Thomson, host of The Consumer Team, commented on the Social Security special broadcast.  “Because of new software that’s been developed, Texas Retirement Specialists has the ability to help consumers identify more money in Social Security benefits.  Previously most people considered the age that they take benefits as the major variable in determining benefit amounts.  However, Social Security is much more complicated than just that decision.”   According to Thomson, listeners will be given an opportunity to see firsthand what additional benefits they could receive.   Thomson added, “Listeners will be able to access a website which will show a specific amount of additional money that is available.  It’s a very simple process which takes under 5 minutes to complete.”  Previously, Thomson reports, listeners have identified as much as $299,000 in additional Social Security benefits.  “Over the last several weeks, we’ve seen people find a few thousand to $299,000.  Obviously this has the potential to dramatically change a person’s retirement.”

For more information on The Consumer Team and to listen live, go to http://www.myconsumerteam.com

The Consumer Team is produced by McQ Media, Dallas, Texas.   http://www.mcqmedia.us

 

 

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