Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Advertising, Made to Appear like News, Raises Concerns

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Advertising, Made to Appear like News, Raises Concerns

Article excerpt

Byline: Wayne Ezell

In case you missed it, the World Reserve Monetary Exchange offered a whale of a deal the other day, and it was advertised in this newspaper.

"$3 million of surplus cash goes up for grabs," said the headline across the top of a full page of what could be described as malarkey aimed at the gullible.

It was a scam, according to some who complained about the ad that was designed to look like a news article. It even carried the byline of Mary Beth Andrews of Universal Media Syndicate (intended, no doubt, to be confused with Universal Press Syndicate).

"The World Reserve is dumping its surplus of $3 million dollars in excess cash right in our back yard," the ad said. Also, this "cash rollback is giving away money for 93% off" to those who act quickly.

"Everyone who beats the 72-hour deadline just by covering the $38 Bank Book transaction fee gets all the cash they want at a fraction of its United States Treasury price."

The ad provided a six-digit authorization code and warned, "If you miss the deadline for this publication, you will be turned away."

Harvey Slentz said he and his wife figured out the catch: "You can have as much money as you wish, but you have to buy the expensive 'presentation book' to house it."

Indeed. The uncut sheets of four $1 bills cost only $1.09, but takers must buy the $38 book. The same uncut sheet of bills can be ordered for $15.50 from the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving, which puts the sheet in an informational folder.

"Ads like this directly attack the credibility of the paper," Slentz said. "On the left side of the page, I'm reading content from a trusted provider (Times-Union), and on the right side of the page, I'm reading something that looks like the love child of a 'Nigerian banker who needs a U.S. partner for his money.'"

Some readers don't distinguish between "a page of content and a page of advertising," Slentz said, and the "Advertisement" label at the top of the page wasn't sufficient. James Oxford Sr. was also critical.

"Didn't your editor think that some people might just fall for this obvious scam?" Oxford asked

I asked Mark Cohen, the Times-Union's director of sales and marketing, to respond. …

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