Be Aware: Self Help Scams

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Get Smart - Pass It On

Be Aware: Self Help Scams

By Catherine Blinder

As the old year ends, and the new one approaches, many of us look at it as an opportunity to work on improving our financial or personal situation. New Year’s resolutions are easy to talk about and not always that easy to accomplish!

We can be inspired by advertising, websites, self-help books and magazines, but it’s important to consider a few things before either buying or signing up for programs or products that promise a “new you.”

While not all self-help sites are scams, it is important to be able to tell the difference between a site that wants to help you improve and a site that wants to sell you something. Here are a few tips on being able to tell the difference between real self-help sites and scam sites.

Not everything on the Internet is true. As you browse through different websites, keep in mind that just because you find the information on the Internet does not mean it is true. Information that you find on a one-page website was likely created for the sole purpose of selling you a product. It is a sales pitch. The most helpful websites will be those that provide plenty of additional articles and related information for you to look at.

Look out for websites that seem helpful, but only push you to buy more products. Although the best websites are those that provide extra articles and information, make sure that this information is not just pushing you to buy more products on a different platform.

Beware of “fear mongering.” Do not let websites scare you into thinking that you must purchase their product. They use fear tactics to scare you into buying their product, as well as to gain your trust. Don’t fall victim to fear mongering!

Sites may ask you questions that apply to almost everyone. When websites want you to buy a product they may ask you to answer questions like “Do you ever find yourself getting angry with people?” or “Have you ever said something and it just came out wrong?” Almost everyone in the world has gotten angry or said something they didn’t mean to say. Asking questions like this is a way for sellers to make you think that there is something wrong with you that their product could fix.

Watch out for websites that use inspirational stories or emotional language to sell their product. If a website gives stories or testimonials that seem too good to be true, they probably are. They could say something like “unemployed drug addict turns life around and  makes 3 million dollars in 3 days thanks to our technique.” Don’t be fooled – this is a type of false advertisement. Companies might also use words that are meant to play to your emotions, such as “imagine yourself…” or “think of how proud you will be if…” These words and phrases are supposed to get you to make an emotional purchase.

Don’t be fooled – these sites and their products are not going to transform your life. Many websites will claim to sell a product that will change your life. Don’t fall for this type of false advertising.

Websites may claim to be the only solution to a problem. Many advertisers claim that they have the product that is the only solution to a common problem, when in fact most of these problems have many different solutions

Do not give in to pressure because of a time limit. Many sellers will say something like “Act now or this amazing offer is going to go away!” This is a pressure technique meant to get you to act quickly before thinking or doing more research on the product.

As the New Year rolls around, it is always good to try to make improvements in your life. But don’t be fooled into buying unnecessary and unhelpful products along the way. Get smart and pass it on!


This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at


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December 24, 2016

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