I have some good news and I have some bad news. First the good news. The number of infomercials on television is decreasing.
Some might say that is great news. But, before you yell hurray, here's the bad news. They are reincarnating as web sites. Changes the whole picture, doesn't it?
For those who've never seen an infomercial, it is a program-length TV commercial touting easy ways to make money in a variety of ways.
Real estate is probably the most often run program. Others include low-interest government loans or grants to start a new business or go to college.
Then there are the old standby classified advertisement sections in newspapers or magazines promising "big money" business opportunities and/or work-at-home schemes. The companies behind these infomercials and print ads claim that by using their products and services, you can learn how to increase your wealth or start a business from the comfort of your home.
These infomercials and advertisements make it very clear you can make the big bucks only by purchasing their books, audio and video tapes, or computer hardware and software. The materials range in price from less than $100 to several thousand dollars.
To clinch the sale, some promoters include a toll-free telephone consulting service with your purchase and offer a money-back guarantee. The fine print in the guarantee is what gets most people.
Web sites promoting these same type of "opportunities" look like an infomercial. Hype, glitz and promises of big money adorn the screen. On the other hand, contact details, other than ordering information, is scant if existent at all.
On television, these infomercials are designed to look, feel, and sound like real TV programs. The FTC says "they often imitate the format of genuine talk shows or investigative consumer news programs."
Because they imitate real programs, "the products being sold often are discussed as part of the program and touted by paid "experts," "moderators," or "reporters", according to the FTC. The programs may last for 30 minutes, interrupted by advertisements for the shows products with ordering information.
As in the offline world, online promoters of wealth-building schemes claim that if you follow their methods, you can make substantial sums of money. The means to easy wealth have shifted from real estate and government auctions to web site sales and development, autoresponder sales, gift clubs and bulk email programs. † The offline world uses the infomercials and advertisements to invite you to attend seminars where you can learn more about their program. You can rest assured the seminar is a slick sales pitch.
The smooth-talking salespeople tout the programs, materials, and services and use testimonials of the people in the back of the room selling the materials to illustrate what easy money you can make. The truth is these people are paid to give testimony. They are on the payroll as salespeople and that's it.
At these seminars the pitch is feverish and it is easy to be lured by promises of success into parting with your money. They are designed to work off the herd mentality. Don't fall for the nonsense.
On the Internet, the herd mentality is engaged through testimonials and a rush to action. You are encouraged every step of the way to BUY NOW! There are only so many days left and this opportunity will be gone forever or some other such nonsense.
The FTC, and everybody else who has studied these programs, gives the following advice:
1.† Be skeptical about "get-rich-quick" advertising claims.
2.† Ask companies for written substantiation for claims in their presentations, especially those about success rates.
3.† Be aware that "experts" who endorse a product often are paid by the advertiser.
4.† Be cautious about "testimonials." They may be paid for and probably owrse, do not reflect the experience of most consumers.
5.† Be wary of purchasing a program if company representatives give you evasive answers or aren't willing to answer your questions at all.
6.† Before you buy, decide whether the price reflects a fair market value.
7.† Be wary of promises of free money or low-interest government loans. As a rule, these are available only in limited circumstances.
8.† Dont be pressured to purchase immediately. Good opportunities are not sold through high pressure tactics.
9.† Before you buy, ask about the companys qualifying requirements and refund policy.
10. Check out the company with your local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, and state Attorney General's office. They should be able to tell you if any unresolved consumer complaints are on file. † Additional consumer protection resources are available at your local library. Check out materials on personal finance and those geared toward the small business owner.
Your local community college may have a marketing department. Call and ask to speak with one of the professors. Explain the program and ask his/her advice/opinion.
The Small Business Administration and your state and local government have publications and programs for new and potential business owners. Write or call and ask for a list of available publications.
Tap into the Internet. That's right, search engines could turn out to be your best friend. A host of scam busting sites exist and expose scams online and offline.
As always, common sense is your best weapon in the fight against this garbage. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. However, if you have more than a passing interest, do your homework. Getting too much information is not a crime or a hazard to your wealth.
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I will now be handing over to my colleague Haroon Siddique in London who will be covering the latest updates on the outbreak
At a press conference by the State Council Information Office of China, they confirmed that there have been 2,057 cases of coronavirus globally. China‚Äôs national health minister Ma Xiaowei said that it is possible the pathogen causing the virus came from a wild animal, and that 1,600 medical professionals were being dispatched to Wuhan to help handle the rising number of cases.
Ma admitted that the virus‚Äôs ability to spread seemed to be getting stronger and that they were not clear about the risks of the virus mutating. The incubation period is between 1 and 14 days, he said, and said it was likely the number of cases would continue to rise.
Head of powerful CGT tells French president of trouble to come unless he cancels reform
The union leader heading protests against France‚Äôs bitterly contested pension reforms has accused Emmanuel Macron of playing with fire and showing contempt for the country‚Äôs workers.
Philippe Martinez, head of the powerful CGT, said the president and his government were ‚Äúdisconnected‚ÄĚ from the real world, and their advisers needed to ‚Äúshake the hands of a few who actually work‚ÄĚ.
The Observer‚Äôs political editor has reported on Britain‚Äôs place in the EU for more than 30 years. Here he charts the key moments in a stormy relationship and the missed chances to save it from destruction
Last week, with the end of the UK‚Äôs 47-year membership of the club of European nations just days away, I looked back at some newspaper cuttings from my time as a Brussels correspondent. A picture of worried-looking farmers eyeing up their cattle at a market in Banbury stared out alongside banner headlines. ‚ÄúBritish beef banned in Europe. Cattle prices fall. School meals hit. EU ‚Äėrules‚Äô broken.‚ÄĚ Among the many crises in British relations with the EU down the years ‚Äď from Margaret Thatcher‚Äôs bust-up over the European budget in the early 1980s to the UK‚Äôs exit from the ERM in 1992 ‚Äď the beef war between London and Brussels ranks among the biggest.
It was 29 March, 1996, and the European commission had just announced a worldwide ban on the export of British beef. The EU‚Äôs executive opted for decisive action after the Tory government admitted there could be a link between ‚Äúmad cow‚ÄĚ disease and the mutant strain of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease which could kill humans. I had been in Brussels less than three months. It was a hugestory, and reading through articles I had written at the time, it felt like yesterday. But what was most striking, as my mind fixed again on events of 24 years ago, was how relevant that one prolonged and tortuous episode seemed today, in the context of Brexit.
UN urges immediate action as east African nations already experiencing devastating hunger see large areas of crops destroyed
The worst outbreak of desert locusts in Kenya in 70 years has seen hundreds of millions of the insects swarm into the east African nation from Somalia and Ethiopia. Those two countries have not had an infestation like this in a quarter century, destroying farmland and threatening an already vulnerable region with devastating hunger.
‚ÄúEven cows are wondering what is happening,‚ÄĚ said Ndunda Makanga, who spent hours Friday trying to chase the locusts from his farm. ‚ÄúCorn, sorghum, cowpeas, they have eaten everything.‚ÄĚ
New research warns that ‚Äėblue acceleration‚Äô ‚Äď a global goldrush to claim the ocean floor ‚Äď is already impacting on the environment.
The scaly-foot snail is one of Earth‚Äôs strangest creatures. It lives more than 2,300 metres below the surface of the sea on a trio of deep-sea hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. Here it has evolved a remarkable form of protection against the crushing, grim conditions found at these Stygian depths. It grows a shell made of iron.
Discovered in 1999, the multi-layered iron sulphide armour of Chrysomallon squamiferum ‚Äď which measures a few centimetres in diameter ‚Äď has already attracted the interest of the US defence department, whose scientists are now studying its genes in a bid to discover how it grows its own metal armour.
Less than 48 hours before the inquiry is due to start hearing evidence about ‚Äúdecisions which led to the installation of a highly combustible cladding system‚ÄĚ, Boris Johnson announced Benita Mehra was standing down from a panel advising the chairman of the inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick. It followed 10 days of rising pressure on the prime minister from the community devastated by the fire on 14 June 2017 ‚Äď which claimed 72 lives ‚Äď to reverse her appointment.
At least 29 people killed and more than 1,200 injured in 6.8-magnitude quake
A powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake in eastern Turkey has killed at least 29 people, with the death toll expected to rise as rescuers search for survivors under the rubble in freezing winter conditions.
The quake late on Friday injured at least a further 1,200 people in the hardest-hit Elazig and Malatya provinces and was followed by more than 390 aftershocks, 14 of which had magnitudes above 4 which were felt as far away as Iran and Lebanon.
Boris Johnson‚Äôs partner and animal rights activist was briefed by Badger Trust weeks before the policy was changed
The influence exerted on the prime minister by his partner, Carrie Symonds, will be explored in court after permission was granted last week for a judicial review into how the government came to pull a cull on badgers in Derbyshire.
The case could embarrass Boris Johnson and raise questions about the government‚Äôs willingness to listen to its advisers when formulating policy.
Ahead of critical trade talks, Steven Mnuchin says ‚Äėdiscriminatory‚Äô levy no place in budget
One of the most senior figures in the US government has warned Sajid Javid to delay a ‚Äúdiscriminatory‚ÄĚ tax on big tech companies, in the latest sign of tensions with Donald Trump‚Äôs administration ahead of critical trade talks.
Steven Mnuchin, the US treasury secretary, used a breakfast meeting with the chancellor on Saturday to warn him directly against applying the new tax as part of his forthcoming budget. The confrontation comes as the US mounts a last-ditch attempt to stop Britain using technology from China‚Äôs Huawei in its 5G network.
The Senakw development aims to ease the city‚Äôs chronic housing crisis ‚Äď and to challenge the mindset that indigeneity and urbanity are incompatible
The scrubby, vacant patch beneath the Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver looks at first glance like a typical example of the type of derelict nook common to all cities: 11.7 acres of former railway lands, over which tens of thousands of people drive every day.
This is not any old swath of underused space, however. It‚Äôs one of Canada‚Äôs smallest First Nations reserves, where dozens of Squamish families once lived. The village was destroyed by provincial authorities more than a century ago.
Amazon have arrived in force in rapidly expanding Hyderabad, with designs on the currently almost non-existent Indian e-commence market
The futuristic lobby of the new Amazon building in Hyderabad feels as though it should have a permanent orchestra blasting out Also Sprach Zarathustra. The scale is intended to awe. A large slogan on a wall suggests the company is ‚ÄúDelivering smiles‚ÄĚ. The only sound that rises above the hush is a synthesised beep, coming from a giant screen playing a video of the campus at various stages of its construction.
Built on nine acres in this Indian city‚Äôs financial district, it is Amazon‚Äôs single largest building globally and the only Amazon-owned campus outside the US. It can house over 15,000 employees, but its size is its main architectural feature: it resembles the same cube of glass steel and chrome seen in corporate offices across Hyderabad, though a flash of magenta reflected in one of the top floor windows, from a billowing sari across the road, is a nice Indian touch.
Minibuses that run on Friday evenings and Saturdays buck state‚Äôs religious restrictions
Tel Aviv is one of Israel‚Äôs most dynamic cities, but the latest local craze could appear fairly humdrum to outsiders ‚Äď a bus service that runs at weekends.
Packed 19-seat minibuses fill up fast with passengers, who excitedly gossip about the new routes. People patiently queue at bus stops, knowing they might have to wait for two or three buses to pass before there is a space. Still, they are upbeat. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a pleasure,‚ÄĚ said Ben Uzan, a 30-year-old electronic engineer. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a blessed initiative.‚ÄĚ
The Garbage Cafe in Ambikapur, India, is helping to tackle the country‚Äôs plastic waste problem ‚Äď and their novel idea is catching on
On bad days, when his employer made some excuse for not paying him his paltry daily wage, Ram Yadav‚Äôs main meal used to be dry chapatis, with salt and raw onion for flavour. Sometimes he just went hungry. For a ragpicker like him, one of the thousands of Indians who make a living bringing in plastic waste for recycling, eating in a cafe or restaurant was the stuff of fairytales.
But last week, Yadav was sitting at a table at the Garbage Cafe in Ambikapur, in the state of Chhattisgarh, over a piping hot meal of dal, aloo gobi, poppadoms and rice. He earned the food in exchange for bringing in 1kg of plastic waste. ‚ÄúThe hot meal I get here lasts me all day. And it feels good to sit at a table like everyone else,‚ÄĚ he said.
As Boris Johnson assesses project, Tory mayor for West Midlands warns of political cost of scrapping it
Scrapping the HS2 rail project will cost at least ¬£12 billion in write-offs and compensation and plunge major construction companies into financial peril, ministers are being warned.
Sources close to the beleaguered scheme told the Observer that extra costs of ¬£3bn-¬£4bn would be incurred even if it were scrapped immediately. ¬£9bn has been spent already. With the issue causing tension inside the Conservative party, Whitehall insiders said that Boris Johnson could decide on the fate of the project as soon as this week as concerns grow that costs are spiralling out of control. Billions have already been spent on the first leg of the line linking Birmingham and London.
Several US veterans‚Äô organizations call for president to apologize for remarks about injuries suffered by service members in Iraq
Veterans of Foreign Wars, a prominent organization advocating for US military veterans, has called for Donald Trump to apologize for remarks downplaying brain injuries recently suffered by nearly three dozen American service members in Iraq.
At Iowa rallies in the last week before the caucus, some fear the Indiana mayor‚Äôs sexuality will make him a risky choice as the Democratic candidate who can beat Trump
Jerry Pinneke is backing Pete Buttigieg for president despite himself. The retired engineer, who worked in the US, Brazil and the UK, likes the Indiana mayor‚Äôs youth, is impressed by his ability to speak eight languages, including Norwegian and Dari, and calls him a natural leader. But he has had to set one issue aside.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm a homophobe,‚ÄĚ said Pinneke after attending a Buttigieg rally in Ankeny, Iowa, as campaigning in the first vote to select the Democratic presidential candidate heads into the final stretch before the state‚Äôs caucus on 3 February. ‚ÄúI get around gay people, that isn‚Äôt the world that I grew up in and it bothers me.‚ÄĚ
Chief medical officer says Australia is ‚Äėincredibly well prepared to isolate and deal with‚Äô any more cases
Australia‚Äôs chief medical officer has warned there will likely be more cases of the deadly coronavirus confirmed in the country, as the federal government explores plans to evacuate Australian citizens from the pandemic‚Äôs epicentre in central China.
Prof Brendan Murphy, Australia‚Äôs chief medical officer, said more cases of 2019-nCoV were likely, following the confirmation of four cases. NSW Health said on Sunday afternoon a fourth person had tested positive, according to their preliminary test results, though more follow-up was needed.
Campaigners say education funding would be ‚Äėinappropriate if not irresponsible‚Äô in light of ban on pregnant girls attending school
An opposition MP and activists in Tanzania are urging the World Bank to withdraw a $500m (¬£381m) loan to the country, amid concerns over deteriorating human rights, particularly for women and girls.
In a letter addressed to the bank‚Äôs board members, Zitto Kabwe said he feared the money would be used by the ruling party ‚Äúto distort our electoral processes‚Äô‚ÄĚ and ensure an easy victory in an election year.
Researchers sound the alarm after statistics reveal almost half of impoverished children in rural areas do not have enough to eat
Poverty has reached unprecedented levels in Zimbabwe, with more than 70% of Zimbabwean children in rural areas living in poverty, a UN study has found.
The report, compiled by Unicef and the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, shows high levels of privation in rural areas, where 76.3% of children live in abject poverty. Statistics seen by the Guardian suggest that almost half of these children do not have enough of the right food to eat.
As the death toll in Yemen passes 100,000, questions must be asked about UK arms exports to the Saudi-led coalition
As British politics reverberates with the results of the general election and Brexit approaches, the announcement from researchers that the death toll in the war in Yemen now exceeds 100,000 went unnoticed in the mainstream press at the end of last year.
With heightened US-Iranian hostility after the US government‚Äôs killing of Qassem Suleimani, the prospects for the war in Yemen look increasingly bleak.
Wellington has restricted foreign political donations but its lax approach to Beijing suggests economic interests still trump national security concerns
Transparency International announced yesterday that New Zealand is the least corrupt country in the world. This is excellent news, but New Zealand cannot afford to rest on its laurels.
Transparency International‚Äôs Corruption Perception Index assesses whether countries have a corrupt judiciary and public sector. Some other aspects where corruption can also occur, such as political funding, are not included in the index.
Huge locust swarms in east Africa are the result of extreme weather swings and could prove catastrophic for a region still reeling from drought and deadly floods. Dense clouds of the ravenous insects have spread from Ethiopia and Somalia into Kenya, in the region‚Äôs worse infestation in decades
Representatives from Europe, Russia and America warned against the resurgence of antisemitism at a memorial event at the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem. Prince Charles, representing Britain, said the lessons of the Holocaust were 'searingly relevant to this day'
Authorities have shut down public transport and airports to prevent Wuhan's 11 million residents from leaving the city as they look to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Police have been seen patrolling railway stations and setting up roadblocks
Iguanas are falling from trees in south Florida as unusually low temperatures sweep through the region. The invasive species can become sluggish when the temperature drops below 50F (10C) and are susceptible to freezing once temperatures drop to around 40F (4.5C). Once frozen, these cold-blooded creatures lose their grip on the trees they call home. Residents have expressed shock at the sight of rigid reptiles lying motionless in the middle of sidewalks and backyards. But while they appear lifeless, they are simply too cold to move
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