Reghan Winkler: How to spot false advertising

By Reghan Winkler - Better Business Bureau

According to Forbes Magazine, digital marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 ads each day.

That’s a lot of brands competing for your attention in order to sell their products. And, although you may think advertising doesn’t work, consider this scenario: What’s the first thing you look at in the morning? Your Android or iPhone? Then you hop in the shower and lather up with a bar of Dove soap. After brushing your teeth with Crest toothpaste and drying off with a towel from Kohl’s, you reach into the closet for an Under Armour shirt and a pair of Levi’s. That’s just the first half hour of your day and you haven’t even scanned Facebook or headed out to climb into your Ford F150 pickup yet.

The point is advertising does work. The hard part as a consumer is sifting through the 4,000 to 10,000 ads to make good buying decisions. Whether you see the ad on TV, hear it on the radio, read it in an email or a text, your ability to recognize and spot misleading and false advertising can save you from contributing to the billions of dollars lost each year to unscrupulous and often non-existent businesses.

To become a more informed consumer consider employing these tips:

• The best rule of thumb to keep in mind when faced with an ad is the old adage, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” That doesn’t mean the ad is false, but it does mean you should check further into it to make sure it is legit.

• Check out the company’s website. Take a deeper dive beyond the first couple of pages. Be aware that while scammers can make bogus sites that appear to be authentic, with testimonial pages, blogs, and realistic-looking staff pages, they rarely produce privacy or terms of service pages.

• Look for shoddy grammar and spelling on the actual ad and the website listed in the ad.

• Google the company’s phone number to see if is associated with any complaints about it. If there aren’t any complaints, call the company and ask questions such as who the CEO or president is, what is their address or possibly who the head of their marketing department is. Ask to speak to those people if possible. Ask for references from their bank, vendors, distributors, or suppliers. If you have trouble getting any of that information, it is a company you probably don’t want to do business with.

• Search the website to verify that the address, phone number and website match what was on the advertisement. You can also check for the business’s assigned rating from an A+ to F grade, as well as any complaint or reviews from consumers.

• Check for online reviews. Organizations such as Yelp, Glassdoor and Amazon can give you an idea of what experiences other consumers have had with the company.

• You can possibly get info on a local company by going to the Ohio Secretary of State website ( and doing a corporation search. While not all businesses are incorporated, this is just one more tool you can use to see if a business has taken the steps to incorporate, who the officers are and how long they’ve been in business.

Last, but not least, you can contact us at the local BBB office by dialing 419-223-7010 if you have doubts or questions about a business. We would love to help!

By Reghan Winkler

Better Business Bureau

Reghan Winkler is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

Reghan Winkler is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

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