Suspicious Sites

Suspicious Sites: Free Financial Advice

May 28, 2008
by Colleen Brondou
Suspicious Sites shines its high beams on sites we think you should be wary of. This week: a site that claims to provide worthy financial advice, but in fact lists only the financial services of paid advertisers.

The Skinny

Free Financial Advice, as the name implies, offers advice on “Ways to Save Money, Make Money and Get Out of Debt.” The site is loaded with text, links and advertisements promising financial advice. A sentence near the top of the homepage declares, “Indeed, by taking the financial advice we offer in this site, and by looking closely at your lifestyle choices and personal finances in a new way, the way we describe on this website, you have a 99% chance of building wealth, saving money and of succeeding financially.”

The Suspicion

The most glaring suspicion arises when you click on the “Financial Advice Forum” link: a page starts to load that looks like a forum, but is quickly replaced with a page that says “Anti-Virus Pro” and pop-up windows that say “Warning! Spyware detected!” Is the real purpose of the site to get you to buy antivirus software?

When you visit the “About Us” page to find out who or what this Web site really is, it offers zero information about who created the site, who pays for the site or their physical location. It does tell us that they “are a site dedicated to helping average people build wealth, manage their debt and money, and make the best financial decisions possible.” How? By providing you with links to sites that have paid to appear here. Visit the “Credit Information” page and you’ll find a list of credit reporting agencies, and a statement: “Most of the following links are to paid advertisers. If you click on a link and purchase an item or service, our site may receive a portion of the money you spend.”

If you go to the “Disclaimer/Privacy Policy” page to dig for more information, you’ll find this: “Free Financial Advice does not hold itself out as providing any legal, financial or other advice.” Funny, because the homepage pledged that if you take “the financial advice we offer in this site … you have a 99% chance of building wealth …” The “Disclaimer” goes on to wiggle out of that previous promise by noting, “The investment and services mentioned on this website may not be suitable for you. If you have any doubts you should contact an independent financial advisor.” The underlying message? The Free Financial Advice Web site doesn’t want to be held accountable for any of the information they provide.

The Solution

Free Financial Advice needs to decide whether it wants to offer reliable, trustworthy financial advice for free, or whether it wants to make money from paid advertisers. The site also needs to be clear about who created the site, where they’re located and how they can be contacted directly (currently, you can only communicate with the site via its “Feedback” form). Furthermore, the “Disclaimer/Privacy Policy” page needs to plainly state what it does with the personal information they collect through their “Feedback” form.

For financial advice you can trust, visit the sites we spotlight in the findingDulcinea Finance Web Guide.

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