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Utah Valley folks vulnerable to scams

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Did you know that Utah, and particularly Utah Valley, is often referred to as the "Scam capital of America?" Yup. More scams are carried out here than anywhere else except Indianapolis. In theory, both areas are populated by some of the most traditional, conservative, trusting families. If a new product does not sell in Utah or Indiana, it won't sell anywhere.

Take the international obsession for beauty, diet and exercise. Americans spend more than $6 billion a year on products that promise to keep us looking and feeling fit — not to mention the added price for related services and seminars. Although some of the products and services deliver what they promise, many don't!

Sales are often based not on the quality of the product, service or advice, but on the appeal of the sales pitch. And Utah Valley residents tend to be among the most vulnerable or gullible of target shoppers. Why? I think it's because the population tends to be trusting and all too often buys into the message and the product, regardless of low value or high price.

To help you separate fact (what works) from fiction (what doesn't) concerning beauty, diet and exercise, be alert to the following characteristics of a myth-informer:

He/she relies on testimonials to inspire and support claims.

"I increased the size of my chest six inches."

"Learning my colors was like receiving a revelation."

"I'm happier and healthier than ever before."

He/she makes vague reference to illusive authorities to boost credibility.

"Mother Nature knew what she was doing."

"I'm just like a doctor, prescribing . . ."

"When I came across Einstein's theory of light, I realized it was a perfect match."

He/she relies on scientific terms and diagrams to support claims.

"I spent two years researching and the last 10 validating it."

"The results were based on science, instead of speculation."

"It was chemically tested in Europe."

He/she uses timely buzzwords and emotional wish words to increase appeal.

"It contains miracle ingredients guaranteed to give you sensational results."

"Let us help you reach your unique beauty potential."

"The restorative effort of this natural, organic . . . is virtually unsurpassed."

He/she claims to have new, magic, formerly secret information.

"The mystique-shrouded art of . . . "

"This revolutionary new . . . was developed after years of secret research."

"The secret of season . . . "

He/she sprinkles fact to support fiction.

"It is a medical fact that our bodies are composed of 98 percent water."

"We all have color preferences, therefore . . . "

"Deep within every woman is an undeniable desire to be admired by everyone."

He/she claims to have superpowers.

"I am sensitive to your aura — in tune with your spirit."

"She has the fantastic ability to interpret your subconscious vibrations."

He/she appeals to common fears and insecurities.

"Why look just 'all right' when you could look fantastic?"

"Cast off the chains that condemn you to a dull, listless life of unfulfilment."

"Everybody's doing it. Don't be left out."

"Most people don't know themselves well enough to buy their own clothes."

He/she deals in overstatement and inaccurate information.

"It feeds your skin, shrinks your pores and restores lost youth and beauty."

"Your personal coloring never changes throughout life."

"Eat as mush as you want and still lose the weight."

"It's the ultimate journey of personal discovery."

"If it worked on paper, I knew it would work on people."

He/she promised an instant solution with exaggerated results.

"Tone your muscles effortlessly within days."

"You'll become an expert overnight."

"Wrinkles, blemishes and circles under your eyes disappear immediately."

"Lose 15 pounds the first weekend."

He/she may discredit established authorities.

"We're here to save you from . . . "

"College teachers are afraid of this new method."

"We're not just another 'expert' whose ego demands continued patronage . . . "

He/she was self-taught, trained by a friend, or has a certificate from a short-term training seminar.

"I studied . . . for 15 years."

"I am a certified . . . "

He/she has a related product or service to sell.

"Free introductory offer."

"For your free supply, just send $14.95 to . . . "

Judith Rasband is the director of the Conselle Institute of Image Management. © 2004 Conselle L.C. Send e-mail to judith@conselle.com and faxes to 801-226-6122.