Is False Advertising the Norm?

It is sad but true that while false advertisements may not be the norm, they are certainly commonplace. Unfortunately, false advertising has become so common we need to consider it constantly when we look at the way businesses and individuals market their products to us.

Dishonest Advertising is All Around Us

For example, just this week (as I write) a letter arrived at our home from one of the largest banks in the country. Take a look at this copy of what was actually printed on the outside of the envelope:

dishonest bank offer

Now you can probably guess what was really inside the envelope. It had nothing to do with paying off any debt.

An Obvious Model of False Advertising

The advertisement shown above claims to be about eliminating debt but the offer is really about transferring debt(s). It was about increasing debt, in fact, because it wanted a 3% transfer fee for the transaction(s).

Not only so, but the bank had no intention of helping anyone pay off their debts “once and for all”, even if they managed to pay off this initial loan because they also mentioned how they would be sending along additional checks for future use on any purchases you might want to make later.

In short this is not a misleading ad (I discuss misleading ads in Deception in the Market Place). This is a blatantly false advertisement, promising one thing but in the end providing almost the opposite to any unsuspecting victims.

Why People Listen to False Advertising

Unfortunately, most folks have grown accustomed to false ads incorporating the most flagrant abuse of the language possible. Some of the most basic financial terms are used in these false ads to suggest the virtual opposite of their clear meaning. But people not only blissfully accept them, they use the same terminology themselves.


A woman says, “I just saved $20.00 on this dress.” What she means is that she just spent $40.00 on a dress. She means that the store claimed, true or not, that the value of the dress was $60.00 and it was being offered for only $40.00. In order to “save” $20.00 she would need to do something like putting that amount into her savings account with an intention of leaving it there to earn interest.

A man might say, “I just invested in a new pickup truck.” Of course, unless he happens to be buying the truck to use as a delivery vehicle for a legitimate business it is not an investment at all, but a rather large expenditure.

False advertisements have been used so prominently and for so long that the public has adopted the same lingo. So unfortunately, the false ads have lead to us thinking falsely, and consequently making poor financial decisions.

A New Way to Look at False Advertising

In order to deal skillfully with buying decisions start now to use financial words correctly. Pay attention to how others use financial terms, especially in marketing situations. It will help you to be more honest in your own buying decisions.

Skill in evaluating marketing offers begins by recognizing any factual misstatements they may contain.

Pay attention to the exact words chosen by marketers. Many of them are just misleading, a point we explore further in another article as indicated, but start by looking at marketing or advertising statements that are flat out dishonest or untruthful. They are the most harmful in general.

Developing Skill at Identifying Misstatements

A good way to develop this skill is to start taking time to look at offers that come in the mail. Take a minute to look at some of them before tossing them in the trash. Ask yourself whether the ads are truthful or otherwise.

Review again the ad pictured above. Forget the misleading for now and focus on the totally untrue.

In our example above we observed that this is a loan offer that has nothing to do with any plan or potential to “pay off your debts” or anyone else’s. Just to rearrange them.

The bank in question simply makes an unsupported and totally false claim to get our attention. See how many similar statements appear in the advertising you see and hear every day. Determine now that you will stay alert and not be tricked by any of them.

Combating False Advertisements

As my example shows, even the largest, supposedly “reputable” institutions are no longer above outright dishonestly in their marketing representations. But there is no reason for us to be distracted by them.

We do need to be knowledgeable and alert to protect ourselves from making inappropriate decisions as a result of false ads, but we can ignore false advertisements and direct our own financial interests elsewhere. It isn’t difficult if we just pay attention.