I don’t know about you, but when I’m seeking investment information on the Internet, I want to know the name and credentials of the person offering this seemingly free advice.
Unfortunately, the frustrating part of an online search is that when you think you arrived at a Web site with pertinent advice, it’s impossible to find out who exactly is giving out this information and more than likely the objective of this innocent-looking educational site is to obtain personal information about you.
For example, I did a search on the phrase "investment property," and judging from one quick URL summary, which read, "Looking to invest in a property? Get online help from an expert," I thought I had found the source. The Web site was called CapitalInvestmentAdvisor.com and I popped on to it.
The home page had a column of resource subjects down the left side; the second column ran investment news; and the larger right column listed a number of links. I checked the subject headers at the top, which read: "Home Page," "Newsroom," "Capital Investment Advisor," "Contact Us," and "Advertiser Login." There was nothing about who was behind Capital Investment Advisor, their history or experience.
When I selected "Contact Us," there was nary a mention of even the city these mysterious people who put this Web site together were located in or a phone number to call. Instead, what you got was what I considered a long form, which if you filled it out provided this site with a lot of information about you. The owners of the site, whoever they might be, give you one enticement: Receive free consultation by filling out this simple form.
The question is, why would anyone fill this form out when it appears this Web site wants nothing more than information on you as opposed to actually offering information that would be of value to you?
Some Web sites are not so obvious.
I tried investmentpropertiesinfo.com, and its home page had a number of interesting tips about buying properties, plus the usual links. So, I thought to myself, "Who created this Web site?" I saw no headers at the top of the page that would get me to that information. Instead I slipped down to the bottom of the page where I saw the header, "About Us." I hit it.
The new page had absolutely nothing to say about who put this Web site together. About the best one could do is utilize their e-mail address. It was weird, because this page said things like "We believe that one of the best ways to learn is through …" and "We’re happy to add useful information …" But who is the "we," and if you don’t know that why would you get involved with this Web site?
The same thing happened at buyincomeproperty.com, which portrays itself as "your No. 1 income property resource." Well, OK, but who are you? I looked at the headers at the top of the page and one read, "Company," and surprisingly it had a subhead that read, "About Us." I tapped it. What a surprise, absolutely nothing came up that said who put this Web site together. I tried another subhead, which read "Contact Us," and it was the same page as the one before. …CONTINUED
Not to belabor the point, but if you are going to make an investment wouldn’t you want to know the names of people you are dealing with first?
I don’t watch much television, let alone wasting my time on infomercials. But I understand people do, which is why a number of authors of self-help books can be seen pitching their solutions on television.
(How successful can an infomercial be? I once wrote a story about a mortgage company called Lend America, which pioneered its industry’s presence in this media mode. They normally broadcast their commercials in the wee hours of the morning, but on the evening of March 25, 2008, the company aired an infomercial during prime time on WNBC-TV, the NBC affiliate in New York. The show generated more than 4,000 inquiries.)
I understand one of the more well-known people pitching real estate solutions through infomercials is a fellow by the name of Carleton Sheets. I don’t know him and have never seen his infomercials, but I did check him out on his Web site. He looked pleasant enough from his pictures and I would have liked to talk to him or his people, but as always there’s no telephone or mention of where the business is located — only a box to write a message. Ironically, what this Web site wants from you includes your telephone number. They want to be able to call you, but you can’t call them.
As it turned out, there are a number of people who don’t like Carleton Sheets, and I know that because there is another Web site called infomercialscams.com. I checked it out to see if they were playing fairly and whether I could ascertain who was behind this Web site. Its contact page was no better than that of Carleton Sheets, but there were places on the Web site where you could at least find its place of corporate domicile, the name of the company running the Web site and even the person who was running that company.
Finally, I pulled up on my computer screen the home page of Trump University. We all know who’s behind this Web site and his smiling visage is right there on the first screen. Donald Trump is a very savvy marketer so the question was, "Could I actually contact the folks at Trump University."
Oh, yes, the contact page screamed with telephone numbers, although, truthfully, I doubt any of them went to "The Donald’s" office directly.
Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer in Arizona and author of several books, including "After the Fall: Opportunities and Strategies for Real Estate Investing in the Coming Decade."
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