When Testimonials Deceive

Used right, testimonials are great. But sometimes they can be used deceitfully to market crap products, even when the testimonial writer is being honest.

In “The Value of Testimonials“, James Laidler, MD, shows how quack medicine promoters can obtain a constant supply of sincere testimonials from customers who honestly believe they’ve bought something great.  Laidler begins with a painfully clever introduction from the “financial services” arena:

“The scam artist gets a list of potential victims and sends half of them a letter (or e-mail) telling them a particular stock will rise in price over the next week – the other half get a letter saying the stock’s price will fall. After a week, he checks the stock price and discards the names that got the “wrong” advice. Next week, he sends half of the remaining potential victims” a letter saying that another stock will go up – the other half gets the opposite prediction. And so on.

After four predictions, he is now down to a list that is 1/16th the size of the one he started with, but those people have seen four “amazingly accurate” predictions. They are much more likely to pay to continue to get stock tips now that they have seen this incredible demonstration.”

Remarkable, isn’t it?  There’s no end to the different ways that scammers can do their work.

Caveat emptor — let the buyer beware.

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