Pet Peeves During Covid-19 Lockdown

By Joe Callison
2 May, 2020

Maybe it is from watching too much television these days, but I am really getting irked by what I see as potentially bad deals often taking advantage of senior citizens.  

Number one on my list is any product or service that is regularly advertised on television, especially in prime time, and often with perpetual offers of free or discounted items included (but only if you act now). Television advertising during prime time is expensive, and you can bet the cost is made up for in an overpriced product or service. And how do you know something is free or discounted if you never have a normal price to compare it to?

Number two is offers of insurance for final expenses or reverse mortgages. While these are not necessarily bad things, the ads are very misleading or leave out important considerations.
The fine print for the insurance states that the cheap price quoted is for one unit of insurance, which is typically only one or two thousand dollars. So having ten or twenty thousand dollars of insurance coverage is going to cost a lot more than expected, but once they have an interested person hooked, they know they are likely to be convinced to buy multiple units at inflated prices without checking other options.
Reverse mortgages are a form of home equity loan with flexible payment options. Usually they are pitched to cash-strapped seniors as a way to get cash and stay in the home without making mortgage payments (if there was no existing mortgage). Maintenance, taxes, and insurance are still the responsibility of the homeowner. Because it is a home equity loan, the loan balance is going to continuously compound at an interest rate that may be much higher than you could get elsewhere for a traditional home equity loan that requires a minimum monthly payment. The amount of cash that will be offered has to be discounted based on the expected years of deferred payment of interest and principal that will be recovered at the eventual sale of the home, so it can be much less than the appraised home value.

Number three is charitable non-profit organizations that spend heavily and regularly on television advertising. Their financial reports can be found on the internet and usually reveal much higher than average costs for advertising and fundraising as a percentage of contributions received. Some are in fact just fundraising organizations that have amassed huge assets and give a small portion of their proceeds to other charitable organizations. You can do much more good with your donations by giving directly to reputable organizations that have low overhead costs.

And finally, number four is a pet peeve about a computer technology related item. As with the other items, I am picking on products or services with frequent advertising on television that I believe are overpriced for that reason. One antivirus product being pitched claims to be different from the typical by using whitelisting as the main real-time protection. There is nothing new or wrong with this approach, which actually is being used by many of the others as part of their protection strategy, but you need to understand what it does and does not do. Whitelisting means maintaining a list of known safe programs and only allowing one of those programs to run on the computer. Programs not on the safe list will be blocked and you may be able to submit them or wait for review and eventual addition to the safe list or override the block and let them run at your own risk. Whitelisting can be a viable strategy to lock down obsolete and unsupported operating systems like Windows XP or Windows 7 running old software that is no longer being updated. Otherwise, legitimate updates or new software installation would trigger frequent false warnings that would have to be dealt with. There are other products that can also be used for effectively locking down a computer that may be better and more reputable than one from a company with a long reported history of writing their own fake reviews, aggressively attacking other reviewers, and refusing to let their product be included in independent lab testing of antivirus products to substantiate claims. Any computer system getting regular updates or new programs installed needs a good real-time virus scanning and removal product whether whitelisting is included in the overall protection strategy or not.

Posted by Joe Callison

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