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What are Infomercial Scams?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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One increasingly popular way to advertise a niche market product or new invention is through a long form informative television commercial, or infomercial. While infomercials have been used to sell everything from miracle vitamins to exercise equipment, not all of these professionally produced advertisements are telling the complete truth about their products or services. A number of infomercial scams have been exposed over the years, leading many viewers to question the validity of those which have not been investigated as of yet.

Infomercial scams involve presenting false or unsubstantiated claims as fact, employing actors to portray experts, providing scripted testimonials or product reviews, and/or promoting the use of a product known to be unsafe or ineffective. Unscrupulous marketers may also promote complicated get-rich-fast schemes such as real estate flipping or locating homeowners with unclaimed FHA loan refunds.

Exercise equipment is a popular product marketed through infomercial scams, especially devices which have not received general approval by a reputable agency. One series of infomercial scams involved elastic abdominal belts containing battery-powered electrodes. The charged electrodes reportedly stimulated the wearer's abdominal muscles without the need for strenuous traditional exercises such as sit-ups or abdominal crunches. The infomercials did show models with twitching abdominal muscles, but little factual data on the effectiveness or safety of the product.

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Some consumers of these weight loss belts suffered painful burns and other injuries as a result of faulty electrodes coming into direct contact with their abdominal skin. As a result, many of the infomercials promoting similar products were soon removed from circulation. Infomercial scams involving other unsafe exercise products have also been pulled or retooled to include more disclaimers and warnings.

Many legitimate infomercials do use scripted testimonials and professional actors to portray television hosts or experts, but there is no intention to sell or promote an inferior or dangerous product to consumers. The product or service may not meet a consumer's expectations, but the infomercial producers did not exaggerate the product's qualities, and used disclaimers such as "results not typical" or "compensated endorsement." Such disclaimers are not usually found in true infomercial scams.

Infomercials often promote specialized or recently developed items with a narrow consumer demographic. While this style of scripted pitch may help sell kitchen gadgets or housekeeping aids, it can also be used by unscrupulous marketers to reach the most vulnerable customers with promises of miraculous weight loss, no-risk investment schemes and life-extending diet supplements. This is why the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other consumer watchdog groups keep a very close watch on potential infomercial scams.

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anon291100
Post 6

The only reason infomercials are on is if you saw these products in the store you would not buy them because of how cheap they look. Don't buy any thing you see on TV, period.

henryhugh
Post 5

Many people believe what they see on television, such as on infomercials pitching products or services late into the evening. Customers should be cautious because there are several infomercial scams out there.

It is still better if we look for more information so that we really know what to do in a certain situation.

GreenWeaver
Post 4

@Icecream -I agree with you. That crosses my mind whenever I see one of these commercials. My favorite infomercials are the cooking infomercials. It is always some nonstick product that allows the representatives to create these delicious meals in minutes.

This is my weakness because I am always looking for ways to save time. The funny thing is that the products that they sell are also found in stores so you can easily take a look at them there.

I think that these infomercials create such a sense of urgency for the viewer that many people buy these things on impulse and later regret it. The shopping channels can work a little like this too. If you watch

the shopping channels they are similar to infomercials because they also give you a sense that the product is running out.

They have a counter on the screen that tells you how many items are being sold in real time so that you race and buy the item for yourself before they run out. Like the infomercials they also offer customer testimonials and you will usually hear these as a telephone call.

If you watch any of the shopping channels for a length of time you will buy a bunch of merchandise that you don’t need because the shopping channels like the infomercials are really good at pressing the customer’s buttons to order to buy.

icecream17
Post 3

@Latte - I agree with you. Many of these infomercials make these outrageous claims that almost hypnotize people into buying. While some infomercial products might actually work the fact that they try to put so much pressure on you into initially buying turns me off.

They always tell you that the product is in limited supply and you have to act now because it will be gone. Most of these commercials even have a counter on the screen that tells you how much time you have left to act. I rather buy a product in a store because I can touch it and see if it is worth it.

I know that I can return it if I don’t

like it, but I imagine if you order something from an infomercial it must be difficult to get your money back and they almost always charge you for the return shipping which I think is unfair especially if you were unsatisfied with the product.
latte31
Post 2

@SurfNturf -I agree with you. A lot of them say that you don’t need money to buy real estate which is really untrue. They tell you that you can buy properties with no money down. The way they normally try to explain this is with lease options or taking over someone’s existing mortgage payments.

To me both ideas are terrible in a down market because the value of the home is declining and will probably be worth less in a lease option.

Second, if you take over someone else’s payments in a mortgage chances are that they are probably underwater and owe more than what the property is worth. Also, the last way to buy a property with

no money coming directly from your pocket is by cashing out the equity of another property that you own.

I did this when I bought my vacation home, but my primary residence was paid off and I only used the equity line to finance the second property. I plan on paying off my balance completely within the next two years.

Investing in real estate is a viable option but you have to have the money to do it because all kinds of things can go wrong. These infomercials pray on people vulnerabilities about wanting security as well as leisure time but there is a lot of work involved in real estate investing and without enough money to get started it becomes a dream rather than a reality. I totally stay away from these programs because I know how foolish they are.

surfNturf
Post 1

I think that infomercial scams exist because the commercials are formatted in such a way that you are almost convinced that you need the product. For example, many of the real estate infomercial products are not trying to sell you a product per se but they are looking at selling you a lifestyle.

You always see people sitting out by the pool sipping a tropical drink while they tell you how effortless the real estate system was that they used to develop the lifestyle that they are currently living.

They tell you about their cash flow and supposed net worth but they don’t give any details or offer any pitfalls. I cringe when I hear one of testimonials state that they purchased four properties in four months. In the back of my mind, I am already calculating the debt because to me that is too much leverage.

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