Protect Yourself and Report the Latest Frauds, Scams, Spams, Fakes, Identify Theft Hacks and Hoaxes
By now, you have surely seen his commercials on TV (often late at night and on Fox). Using a large number of different websites, but always the same pitch, the green suit covered with question marks and a maniacally shouting, annoying man, squealing "get money from the government to pay your rent for FREE!"
He insists there are hundreds of government programs with money, for just about anything you want, you just need his book to tell you how to apply for the grants!
There are countless reports, firsthand, from people who have felt swindled and duped by Lesko's ads. Many feel that Lesko deliberately misleads those who buy his book. There are two big complaints:
For example, often grants that are referred to in Lesko's books are actually public assistance programs for which many people are not eligible. Famed consumer advocate Clark Howard says this of Lesko:
"Have you seen the crazy guy in the television commercials who jumps up and down in front of the White House and says he knows how you can get FREE MONEY!! from the government. To get the free money, all you have to do is buy his book. His name is Mathew Lesko, and his promise is simply not true. Clark has always said his pitch was not true, but now a government agency has agreed."
On his radio show, Clark Howard pointed out that, since much of the advice relates to state agencies, and you can only live in one state (at a time), then, mathematically, only 4% of the book could apply to you (1 state plus the federal section, out of a total of 51 sections). 96% of the book will be useless to you, even under the best of circumstances. Of the 4% that possibly could apply to you, much of that will be programs for which you are not eligible.
Lesko makes it sound as though it is easy to get the grants and that he is telling you about programs that you don't already know about already. Both are untrue: many of the programs are well-known and you won't qualify. Lesko appears to admit this. According to the Washington City Paper:
Lesko acknowledges that his schtick obscures the enormous difficulties in securing government grants, but he sees no need to apologize for it. "A degree of lying-you know, white lies-seems to be inherent in all languages and all forms of communication," he wrote in the introduction to his book Free Money to Pay Your Bills. "It's really not lying; it's more a matter of not presenting the downside of a situation."
There are other problems with Lesko's facts, too. The New York Times criticizes him for making the false statement that he was a columnist for the newspaper.
Most people find his advertisements obnoxious, at best. Until recently, Lesko screams, shouts and runs around like a maniac, pretending to be chased by government agents. His latest commercial features him speaking in a hushed tone of voice, probably in response to online backlash against his usual screaming technique. But while that doesn't address the quality of his products, he also claims in this commercial that he has a 'zero customer unsatisfaction rating, and he intends to keep it that way'. However, there are countless forums on the Internet with people who have purchased his book and find it to be a useless scam [see Ripoffreport.com], and is compared to the other fraudulent television personality, Miss Cleo. The book guarantees a refund for up to 90 days, but customers report on the Ripoffreport website that the telephone number leads to a dead recording, e-mails are sent back to them, and nobody responds to requests for refunds, ignoring and avoiding the refund guarantee.
"One of Lesko's marketing claims is 'The government grants $750 Billion in small business grants and free government grants each year. Let Matthew Lesko help you get your share.' Free is an interesting and ignorant choice of words, of course. This money is not free. Take a look at your paycheck stub and you will see who pays for these 'free' handouts. Lesko is merely facilitating the exchange of money from your pocket into the pockets of others, via the government.
"Lesko's website even offers a new, updated 770-plus page book for 2003. The book is pitched with the following statement: 'Billions of dollars are given out every year that you can use and Lesko's book will show you how to get it.' In other words, send in $30 and you learn how to pilfer the hard work of others. Apparently, our society has become so jaded to government waste, so conditioned to governmental theft that we not only reward someone who markets a way to get in on the looting, we celebrate him and marvel at his resourcefulness."
Even if Lesko is attempting to teach ordinary citizens how to bilk the government for funds from programs that are intended for the truly needy, this is not the worst of it. The simply fact is the government is NOT going to pay your bills. Lesko's commercials distort and exaggerate the intent and application of common government programs to make it sound like he has secret knowledge of special government programs to hand out money to anyone who asks.
Lesko presents names, addresses, phone numbers and descriptions of government and private agency grant and assistance programs and for this reason, many say he is not actually scamming people, just exaggerating the value of his books. But gross exaggerations and misleading advertisements meet our definition of a scam; and that is what Lesko does.
Lesko's books are essentially useless collections of information that doesn't apply to you and you can easily obtain on the internet for free. His books are little more than a self-serving attempt to get into your wallet. The truth is Lesko is looking for free money to pay his bills... from YOU!