The Federal Trade Commission has a stated goal of consumer protection and advocacy, so typically when they make a case against someone it’s on behalf of the American people. What should the American people think about someone who has been sued by the FTC not once, not twice but four consecutive times? Enter the world of Kevin Trudeau and his series of books that “they” don’t want you to know about.
If you don’t recognize Kevin Trudeau’s name, you will definitely recognize his face. The king of the late night infomercial, Trudeau has marketed everything from diet plans, memory and reading improvement systems, real estate investment tips, cures for baldness, diabetes, cancer and even debt. Trudeau’s most recent book, “Free Money ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About”, promises to grant the reader access to over 100,000 sources of free money available to the average US citizen. To promote this new book, Kevin Trudeau purchased himself some air time and set up a scripted infomercial to appear as though he is being legitimately interviewed.
During this infomercial, Trudeau makes some pretty big claims of his book. According to Trudeau, senate bills are in place that “offer over $800 BILLION dollars” to the American citizen who knows how to access the “100,000 organizations and sources”. His claim is that the politicians promise their community a certain amount of money in order to be elected (he calls these funds “payoffs”), and then set up these programs in secret to allow their friends access. Allegedly “over 140 million average Americans” are eligible for the same programs, but “they” don’t want you to know about them. Trudeau goes on to tell viewers that in less than 30 seconds he was able to apply for a program featured in his book and received a check for $253. In less than 15 seconds he applied for a second program that amounted to $1,500 (at this point in the informercial, fine print flashes across the bottom of the screen: “Results not typical”). In fact, he guarantees that if you purchase his book and do not get at least $500 in free money you can return the book for a full refund. A 1-800 number appears at the bottom of the screen, along with a purchase price of just $29. With a money back guarantee that you will earn your $29 back, plus at least another $471 within 30 days, it seems like viewers can’t really go wrong with purchasing this book. Trudeau even sweetens the pot by offering to send you copies of two of his other books, absolutely free. It really can’t be repeated enough: If something seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is! So, what’s the catch?
As with all of Kevin Trudeau’s previous self-published books, readers are surprised to find that the books do not actually contain actual links or information on how exactly to get this ‘free’ money. Instead, the pages are filled with success stories and vague information (Trudeau shies away from mentioning actual names or studies, making it virtually impossible to substantiate many of his claims), directing readers to sign up on Kevin Trudeau’s website on which he promises you will finally find the information you thought you already purchased. Readers are even more surprised when they arrive at Trudeau’s website and find that to access the information they will need to pay an additional $71, per month. Those that do pay the monthly subscription fee receive yet another shock when they attempt to apply to the programs apparently designed for the average American only to find they are not eligible, the program has expired or never existed in the first place.
Kevin Trudeau’s “Natural Cures” Books:
The final blow comes when they receive their first bank or credit card statement. The book may have cost ‘just’ $29, but the shipping charge is an extra $25. And the books that he promised to throw in for free? Each ‘free’ book added an additional $25 shipping charge to your total bill. Many customers have reported that while they were on the phone ordering “Free Money”, the salesperson talked them into several more ‘free’ books, and even told the customers they needed to sign up for Trudeau’s newsletter to complete the order process. The newsletter is none other than the $71 per month subscription mentioned earlier. The ‘sweet deal’ has now cost around $175.
For angry customers who feel they were conned or didn’t receive $500 in ‘free money’ within the first 30 days, there’s always Trudeau’s money-back guarantee, right? Wrong! Customers who try to return the books within the first 30 days will run into many roadblocks. Some customers are told their order cannot be found in the computer system and therefore the return cannot be processed. All customers are told that the money-back guarantee only applies to the $29 cost of the book, but the shipping on the initial book, the shipping on the ‘free’ bonus books and the newsletter subscription cannot be returned. Customers who try canceling their order while they were still on the initial sales call are told it has already been processed, and they will have to wait to receive the book and then call in to cancel.
But wait, there’s more! The icing on the cake is that one more surprise is in store for the unsuspecting victims who purchase any of Trudeau’s books or sign up on his website: the FTC has found that Kevin Trudeau is selling your customer information to junk mailers and telemarketers.
At this point, most people are thinking the same thing: surely Kevin Trudeau cannot get away with a scam like this for long, and some authoritative body will get wind of his activities soon enough and shut him down. Would it surprise you to know that Kevin Trudeau has been sued, many, many times for millions of dollars by the FTC, or that he is a convicted felon who has spent time behind bars in a federal institution?
Kevin Trudeau’s Diet and Debt Books:
Kevin Trudeau’s life as a public figure began in the early 90′s when he was convicted of credit card fraud (you can view a copy of Kevin Trudeau’s indictment here). It seems he was using the credit card information collected from customers who had purchased his memory improvement program to ring up thousands of dollars in personal charges. He was also caught posing as a doctor attempting to cash fake checks. Trudeau plead guilty to fraud and larceny and spent two years in a federal prison for his crimes.
Following his release from federal prison, Trudeau began working for a company called Nutrition for Life, which was found by the State of Illinois to be an illegal pyramid scheme. The company was sued by Illinois and seven other states, settled with them, and closed up shop. The stockholders of Nutrition for Life also filed a class action lawsuit against the company.
Trudeau then went on to produce infomercials for diet, real estate investment, baldness, memory improvement, reading improvement, natural cures, and so on. After countless complaints from victims that Kevin Trudeau was making false claims in his infomercials and his programs, the FTC took action and fined Trudeau to the tune of $2 million dollars. Kevin Trudeau is the only person ever to be banned by the FTC from selling products on television. Lydia Parnes, on behalf of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, “This ban is meant to shut down an infomercial empire that has misled American consumers for years”.
No longer able to sell programs through infomercials, Kevin Trudeau turned to writing and self publishing his series of books, which grant him some protection under the First Amendment as to what he can say. Yet again, the FTC has found that the claims made in Kevin Trudeau’s books are misleading and outright false, and found him in contempt of their earlier ruling. Trudeau was initially fined $5 million dollars, but when he continued to falsify information in his books the FTC increased the amount of Trudeau’s fine to $37 million.
The jail time and fines have not stopped Kevin Trudeau, leading to the obvious conclusion that his profit is far in excess of the tens of millions of dollars he is required to payout. This convicted felon continues to make a very lucrative living off of the emotional, physical and financial sufferings of the average American consumer.
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