Consumers hoping to cash in on an advertised offer of “valuable, uncut sheets” of $2 bills may end up frustrated and disappointed, the BBB serving Western Virginia warns.
The company behind the ad is World Reserve Monetary Exchange, Inc., of Canton, Ohio. “Roanoke area zip codes turn up cash for residents,” said the headline on the advertisement which ran Monday in The Roanoke Times. “Valuable uncut sheets of never circulated $2 bills are actually being released to the first 7,127 callers who find their zip code on the distribution list below and beat the 48-hour deadline to get Vault Stacks full of real money.”
“When placing a call to the company you are told you are eligible to buy five (5) bulk stacks of the $2 bills at $144.00 each”, said Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB serving Western Virginia. “You are encouraged to do so and asked if they can put you down for five bulk stacks”. A bulk stack consists of three (3) portfolios containing four (4) $2 bills. When pressed, the operator states you can buy just one portfolio for $48; when asked about shipping charges, it was stated the charge would be $14.88 for one bulk stack and when asked about the limited 90-day money back guarantee we were told there was no information available. “If you buy just one portfolio for $48”, added Wheeler, “You need to consider the very real possibility that the worth of the four $2 bills may never increase; do you really want to pay $48 for money only worth $8?”
World Reserve Monetary Exchange and several affiliated businesses, including Universal Syndications, Inc., have advertised in newspapers and other publications nationwide, including Virginia, Missouri and Illinois. 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. The TV converter box ads were labeled misleading and confusing by the Columbus, Ohio, BBB in 2008.
More than 300 consumers have filed complaints against Universal Syndications/World Reserve Monetary Exchange with the Canton, Ohio BBB. Many of the complaints dealt with concerns over misleading ads, high-pressure sales tactics, an inability to get refunds and difficulty getting the company to stop charging for additional products.
Since 2007, attorneys general in at least three states have taken action against the firm. 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 newspaper ad for the $2 bills states: “Roanoke area residents who find their zip code on the distribution list will feel like they just won the lottery. That’s because for the next 48 hours, full uncut sheets of never circulated $2 bills are being released by the World Reserve . . . directly to Roanoke area residents who beat the order deadline.” The same ad ran in St. Louis, MO to St. Louis residents last month except their ad offered four free $2 bills.
A St. Louis BBB employee called the firm and a company representative said that the only way to get the four free $2 bills was to purchase a set of 12 of the bills for $158.88, with shipping. She said she would process an order for five sets of the bills, never indicating the total cost of more than $700.
Robert Kravitz of Chesterfield, Mo., a board member of the Missouri Numismatic Society, a national board member of the Society of Paper Money Collectors and a coin and currency dealer and collector for 40 years, said the offer is misleading. Kravitz noted that millions of $2 bills are available at face value and said the addition of the overlays of the Gateway Arch and St. Louis skyline actually would reduce the value to a serious collector. “These $2 dollar bills are never going to be worth more than two bucks,” he said.
A man from Union, Mo., said he phoned the toll-free number on the ad, in hopes of taking advantage of what he thought was an offer of free money. When he found his zip code among those listed, he said he thought, ‘hey, here’s my zip code; maybe I’m going to get something for free.’” Instead, he ended up giving a debit card number to a representative and soon after found his account debited nearly $800. He said he called the company and believes he was able to cancel the order. “I was a fool,” he 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 a Business Review by going to www.bbb.org or by calling (540) 342-3455.
If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501. You can also visit www.bbb.org. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/BBB_WesternVA.