UPDATE 3/25/22: The Seven Figure Publishing website is no longer in operation. Our original ad alert follows.
If you spend any time on the internet, you’ve seen the thumbnails. Unabashed clickbait with images and headlines that are impossible to ignore. They’re sometimes called “sponsored stories” but there’s another word for them: ads.
A consumer tipped us off to one of these ads with the headline “Born After 1943? You Could Collect An Extra $890.07 From The Social Security Administration.”
No way! We clicked the link and were taken to a website for Seven Figure Publishing, a self-proclaimed “independent financial research firm” and a division of publishing giant Agora Financial, whose pitch for investing in “Trump Penny Stocks” we covered a couple years back. The site makes it clear from the start that the company has no affiliation with the Social Security Administration, before professing to posses a bit of insider information regardless.
The secret, according to Seven Figure Publishing, is a “little-known Social Security document” that the company claims, if filled out correctly, can boost Social Security recipients’ monthly checks by as much as $890.07. Seven Figure Publishing says it will help you fill out the form correctly with “step-by-step instructions,” but you need to do something for the company first: Order “The Little Black Book of Income Secrets” by Mike Burnick, Seven Figure Publishing’s “Chief Income Expert.”
Here’s the thing about the book: While it’s marketed as free, you actually have to pay a $4.95 shipping fee to get it and the payments may not end there. This is because by signing up to receive the book you are also enrolling into a 30-day free trial for an “Infinite Income” newsletter. Forget to call to cancel within 30 days and you will be charged a “non-refundable fee” of $49 for a full year’s subscription to a newsletter you may have no interest in reading. (If you’re looking for the number to cancel, it’s 800-708-1020.)
Also, the title of the book, “The Little Black Book of Income Secrets,” bears a striking resemblance to “The Big Black Book of Income Secrets” by Tom Dyson, which came out in 2015. Dyson was an editor at Stansberry Research, which was the subject of a 2014 TINA.org investigation into the use of deceptive testimonials to sell financial newsletters. We’re also suspicious of the author’s claim that the book is a “#1 best-seller.” The book isn’t even listed on Amazon.
Perhaps most important, the form that Seven Figure Publishing is making a fuss about — Form SSA-521 — may not be as much a secret as the company is making it out to be. All it is is a two-page application to request to withdraw Social Security benefits after they’ve started, deferring them to a later date for a larger monthly payment when collection starts again. That’s it. The Social Security Administration explains how it works on its website and you don’t have to order a book to access the information. Among other things, if you’ve already received benefits for a year, you can’t withdraw your application and withdrawal requires repayment of all benefits (which, if you think about it, is the opposite of collecting money from the Social Security Administration). Withdrawing benefits is probably not an option for the vast majority of Social Security recipients, except for those who receive an unexpected windfall after starting collection.
It’s no surprise the company’s own terms and conditions say its advice is “not intended to be relied upon by users in making (or not making) specific investment decisions. … We urge customers to perform their own due diligence.”
On that we can agree.
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