#3. Broadview Security
As we all know, a privileged white woman in a nice, warm suburban neighborhood is in more danger than an unbroken arm in a Steven Seagal film--at least, that's what Broadview Security would like you to believe, a company who sells alarm systems.
Here's a typical Broadview ad. A woman, at home, vulnerable. Suddenly she sees a shady looking character at the door...
...he smashes his way in, clearly with some rape on his mind...
And by the time she makes it up to her bedroom three seconds later, the handsome, strong protectors at Broadview are calling to make sure she's OK:
As easy as that. Just set the alarm whenever you're at your whitest and most femalest, and you're instantly protected from any would-be assaulters. Help is always just seconds away!
The commercial seen above can be best described as the "edited" version. The real-life scenario has a number of extra scenes, including:
The 45 to 60 seconds between when an alarm is tripped and when it's actually able to go off, during which time her intruder has free, alarm-less reign over the house; the 30 seconds between when the alarm went off and when Broadview calls, during which she tried to call 911 herself but her phone line was busy transmitting the alarm signal; and the eight minutes (on average) between when Broadview called the police and they actually arrived, during which time the bad guy could have carefully selected the knife he wanted to use to remove her kidneys.
Don't get us wrong, a security system has a number of advantages and benefits, but protecting a woman from a deranged rapist in her kitchen is not one of them by any means. That's why the ads show the attacker getting freaked out by the alarm and running away--if they actually showed Broadview stopping him in any way, it would be a lie.
He could potentially trip over the yard sign, we guess.
And while we joke about things like violent knife-wielding rapists in your kitchen, keep in mind that even that part is misleading. The rate of violent crimes is actually decreasing in America, and has been for several decades now. You wouldn't know it from watching Broadview's ads, obviously, because they've found that fear sells very very, well.
#2. Home Remodelers
Somewhere, right now, a homeowner is getting a knock on the door. It's a contractor who was passing by, and he just wanted to let them know that their house is crumbling down around them. Their roof has hail damage and is about to collapse. They have mold in their walls that is going to poison them and their children in their sleep.
"You see, this is a real problem."
Mold is the big one right now. Ever since Hurricane Katrina, the problem of mold and moisture has become a favorite for these guys. They can test your air with their whatsits and doodads and find the amount of mold spores in it, or maybe they'll just point to the corner of your windowsill, and declare that you're giving your family emphysema or syphilis or whatever it is that you get from mold.
"Boom! Anal fissures."
The solution? Let them tear out your walls at tremendous expense.
And you're in luck, because now is the perfect time to let this totally trustworthy contractor take care of the repairs for you. Right now, they've got a really great deal on whatever it is you need, but if you don't bite, the price is going to seriously skyrocket. So what are you waiting for? Reach for your wallet and hire this man. BUY THE FUCKING SERVICE DO IT NOW NOW NOW BEFORE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY DIES
Pictured: Standard operating procedure.
Of course, there are straight scam artists who'll just take a deposit and then completely disappear. But even the guys who are doing the work are often playing off a false premise.
That mold that's wreaking havoc on your family's lungs? Actually, it isn't quite as dangerous as people think. The EPA says that the worst mold does to some people is irritate their throat or eyes a bit, or maybe cause some mild problems in people with allergies or asthma. So it's not much different from exposure to your pets or the general filth you keep around your house.
Comparatively, mold is nothing to worry about.
As far as cleaning it, you may want to consider just breaking out the sponge. According to the EPA, you shouldn't be that worried about mold unless it exceeds 10 square feet, which we're pretty sure is big enough for you to pay special property taxes on it. If you ever have that much mold on hand, then you've got a burst water or sewage pipe somewhere, in which case you've hopefully already called somebody.
Roof damage is another big one, because the contractor promises he can get your homeowner's insurance to pay for it. All he has to do is show the insurance guy the damage your roof has taken, and it will cost you nothing. Then, before the insurance guy gets there, the crew goes up and damages your roof. Just a tip, if you ever see a work crew on your roof slapping the shingles with socks full of golf balls, that is not a normal thing for them to be doing. Call the cops.
Identity theft is all the rage these days, getting top billing in a number of movies as well as some cameo appearances on TV. If anyone gets their hands on your sensitive personal information, they could apply for credit cards, buy a bitchin' moped and go on a hilarious around-the-world adventure with their best friend, while your bank account is slowly drained, or your credit is ruined.
What an asshole.
Lucky for you, LifeLock is there to make sure nobody steals your identity and ruins your finances. They're so confident that their methods work that the CEO, Todd Davis, is giving out his Social Security Number to anybody who wants to see it: It's 457-55-5462. They even paint it on the side of their trucks.
So a slightly more secure person like yourself should be safe, right?
Here's a real-life example that'll show you how safe you are with LifeLock: In 2007, someone did steal Todd Davis's identity and managed to get $500 out of it. LifeLock proceeded to track the man down, video cameras (and Rottweilers, we imagine) on hand, and basically forced him to sign a pre-typed confession from the company, which would have him performing community service to make up for his crime. Once the police got word of this, they immediately leapt into action by rubbing their foreheads with their thumb and forefinger, muttering obscenities, then throwing out the case because it had been tainted by LifeLock's cavalier actions.
"Dammit, Lifelock! You're a loose cannon! The mayor's gonna have my ass for this."
Essentially, LifeLock actually allowed this man to get away with identity theft because of their supreme idiocy. The kicker: The man who used the SSN was legally retarded. On the other hand, at least we know that God has a sense of humor.
If that's not bad enough, this March, LifeLock had to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $12 million amidst charges that they were lying about what their services could do, mainly because they were. According to the chairman of the FTC, Jon Leibowitz, LifeLock's protection "left enough holes that you could drive a truck through it," which isn't really how holes work, but whatever.
The sort of thing LifeLock protects you from is mainly people opening up new credit accounts, which is only 17 percent of existing identity theft. If someone used your identity to get medical care, a new job or even if they just took your credit card for a joyride, you wouldn't hear a thing until the bank showed up to repossess your new car that you didn't know you bought.
But if LifeLock can't protect you, then what can you do to prevent identity theft? Well, your bank and credit card company already have some pretty strict identity theft protections in place already--they're the ones who usually wind up footing the bill, after all. But beyond that there are some pretty simple steps that you can take yourself, such as getting your annual credit report, regularly checking your bank statements for odd charges and not plastering your SSN on the side of a truck and driving it through major cities.
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For more overblown paranoia, check out 5 Pathetic Groups That People Think Rule the World. Or find out what you should really be scared about, in 5 Ways You're Secretly Being Monitored.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 06.07.10) because if you don't, Ron Paul will rob your house.