By Robb Hicken/ chief storyteller
Consumers hoping to cash in on an advertised offer of “crisp seldom seen uncut” $1 bills may end up frustrated and disappointed, BBB warns.
The company behind the ad is World Reserve Monetary Exchange, Inc., of Canton, Ohio. “Boise area zip codes turn up cash for residents,” reads the headline on the advertisement which ran Thursday in the Idaho Statesman in Boise. “Valuable Gov’t issued uncut sheets of money are actually being handed over to the first 6,049 callers.”
Dale Dixon, president and CEO of the BBB serving the Snake River Region, says, “It may sound bizarre, but this company is banking on people willing to pay cash in return for less cash. If you’re looking for novelty items to show your friends or family, you might be interested. But if you are looking for an investment, this is probably not the wisest choice.”
The advertisement appearing in the Statesman’s Life Section makes numerous unspecified promises about return on investment, and urges callers to move forward without consideration to what they are really buying, he says.
The ad states the money is being released until “our last remaining uncut sheets of $1 bills are completely gone.” The cost for a Vault Stack is $29 for a portfolio loaded with a valuable uncut sheet of never circulated $1 bills (four $1 bills). The Vault Stack has three protective portfolios: $87 plus handling and shipping. (The Vault Stack, in the ad, is juxtaposed to what appears to be a 3-inch tall pile of uncut bills, that isn’t what you receive.)
World Reserve Monetary Exchange and several affiliated businesses, including Universal Media Syndications, Inc., have advertised in newspapers and other publications nationwide. The company is a division of Arthur Middleton Capital Holdings of Ohio and Miami Beach, Fla., according to the holding company’s website. The holding company also oversees companies that have sold controversial Heat Surge heaters, healthcare plans and “free” digital TV converter boxes and antennas. The TV converter box ads were labeled misleading and confusing by the Columbus, Ohio, BBB in 2008, and BBB serving the Snake River Region recently investigated this past month on the antennas.
Since 2007, attorneys general in at least three states have taken action against the firm. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal that year called on consumers to reject the company’s “phony discount offer” for sheets of $1 bills, as advertised in full-page newspaper ads. In May 2008, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley obtained an agreement from the company to stop running misleading coin and currency advertisements. In July 2009, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett reached an agreement calling for the company to stop misleading advertising and to refund money to consumers. Corbett said the company’s full-page newspaper ads offering millions of dollars in surplus cash were deceptive. “These advertisements led people to believe that they could claim cash that was ‘up for grabs,’ but that was not the case at all,” Corbett said.
The BBB suggests that consumers buying items offered as collectibles be extremely cautious. It offers the following tips when dealing with such advertised offers:
- Read the entire ad carefully, looking for disclaimers and other information that indicates the offer may not be what it seems. Make sure you understand exactly what you are ordering and how much it will cost, including shipping.
- Be wary of any offer that indicates the merchandise is a collectible and may increase in value. New items that are sold as collectibles often lose value.
- Be cautious of any company that advertises free merchandise. Such offers usually are contingent on purchasing other items.
- Be cautious of any company that advertises a time limit when offering merchandise. That is often done to create a false sense of urgency for the consumer.
- Contact the BBB for Reliability Reports by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 208-342-4649.