BBB warns about misleading newspaper ad

Ad claims to offer free cell phones to seniors

We've all seen how crooks will target anyone by any means ... to try and separate unsuspecting victims from their money.That includes targeting senior citizens with a slick advertising campaign in the local paper. Rob shows us how this fake cell phone scam works.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The headline of a newspaper ad reads, "Seniors set to get easy to use cell phones free," but the Better Business Bureau is warning that the ad is deceiving.

"If you look at the top of the page it basically says it's an infomercial, an infotisement," explained Better Business Bureau's Tom Stephens. "So you know everything there is an advertisement for the company, but they are just taking things from news stories and putting it in their advertisement so it looks like it's part of the news."

According to the BBB, the phone number in the ad is registered to a company in Canton, Ohio.

The company operates under several names and offers just about everything consumers could want, like cell phones.

The ads all come with a deadline, telling readers to call within a certain time frame to take advantage of the deal.

Stephens said that's a red flag and in this case, the things people wind up getting are not "free."

"The telephone ad, they are advertising a free cell phone. All you gotta do is pay the activation charge and it's $97. That's $100 basically to get a phone that doesn't work because all it does is make the free 911 call," said Stephens. "If you wanna add minutes to it, you gotta pay."

"We were thinking about getting a new phone," said Barry Schultz, "and we saw a full page ad in the paper and when I called, boy was that person really evasive."

Schultz said he knew something was wrong as soon as he called the number in the ad.

"I asked them, who's the carrier that it's gonna be on and she said, 'Well, you can buy your minutes from AT&T and T-Mobile. AT&T bought T-Mobile and at any T-Mobile you can buy minutes.' She gave me all this garbage and it was not one question could be answered yes or no," said Schultz. "Everything, 'Well it should be, it could be, we think that's the way it's gonna work,' and it was just awful."

Schultz didn't fall for the scam, but wanted to get the word out to make sure that others don't either.

"The tip is if you can't understand what you're buying, if you don't feel like you know what you're gonna get, when you make that phone call, you shouldn't make the phone call," said Stephens.

The cell phone ad did appear in the Jacksonville Times Union paper on July 31. The Times Union told Channel 4 that the ad is being run by a company they have a contract with, but they've since discontinued running the ad.

Click here to learn more on BBB's website.

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