Be carefull about infomercials

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 7, 2001

You've seen the program-length television commercials soliciting easy ways to make money in real estate, obtain low-interest government loans or receive grants to start a new business or attend college.

According to the Council of Better Business Bureaus, responding to these infomercials may cost you.

The infomercials have the look, feel and length of regular TV programs.

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They often imitate the format of talk shows or investigative consumer news programs.

Many companies in these infomercials claim that by using their products and services, you can learn how to increase your wealth or start a business.

Some even encourage you to purchase program materials, such as books, audio and video tapes and computer hardware and software.

Materials sold during infomercials range in price from less than $100 to several thousand dollars, says Georgia Aycock, Extension Resource Management Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Some promoters claim to offer a money back guarantee.

However, many consumers find that the program or business opportunity was not what was advertised and that all you have are empty promises.

Here are some tips to follow, if you're tempted to respond to an infomercial:

1. Be skeptical about "get rich quick" advertising claims.

2. Ask companies for written proof of claims in their presentations, especially claims of success rates.

3. Be aware that the advertiser pays experts who endorse a product often.

4. Be cautious about "testimonials."

They may be paid for, and they might not reflect the experience of most consumers.

5. Before you buy, decide whether the price reflects a fair market value.

Don't be pressured to purchase immediately.

Good opportunities are not sold through high-pressure tactics.

6. Be wary of promises of free money or low-interest government loans.

As a rule, these are available only in limited circumstances.

7. Check out the company with your Better Business Bureau, your local Consumer Protection Agency, Federal Trade Commission and State Attorney General's Office.