Lesko; "Free Money to Pay Your Bills"
The truth is Lesko is looking for free money to pay HIS
bills... from YOU!
Lesko sells information that you can get for free elsewhere
By now, you have surely seen his commercials on TV
(often late at night and on Fox). Using a large number of different websites, but always the
same pitch, the green suit covered with question marks and a maniacally
shouting, annoying man, squealing "get money from the government to pay your
rent for FREE!"
He insists there are hundreds of government programs with money, for just
about anything you want, you just need his book to tell you how to apply for the
What is the truth about Lesko's books and business practices?
There are countless reports, firsthand, from people who have felt swindled
and duped by Lesko's ads. Many feel that Lesko deliberately misleads those who
buy his book. There are two big complaints:
- Lesko makes it sound as though it is easy to obtain grants and money
from the government and
- He fails to mention the downsides, such as you will probably not be
eligible for the vast majority of the programs.
For example, often grants that are referred to in Lesko's books are actually
public assistance programs for which many people are not eligible. Famed consumer advocate
Clark Howard says
this of Lesko:
"Have you seen the crazy guy in the television commercials
who jumps up and down in front of the White House and says he knows how you can
get FREE MONEY!! from the government. To get the free money, all you have to do
is buy his book. His name is Mathew Lesko, and his promise is simply not true.
Clark has always said his pitch was not true, but now a government agency has
On his radio show, Clark Howard pointed out that, since much of the advice
relates to state agencies, and you can only live in one state (at a time), then,
mathematically, only 4% of the book could apply to you (1 state plus the federal
section, out of a total of 51 sections). 96% of the book will be useless
to you, even under the best of circumstances. Of the 4% that possibly
could apply to you, much of that will be programs for which you are not
Lesko makes it sound as though it is easy to get the grants and that he is
telling you about programs that you don't already know about already. Both
are untrue: many of the programs are well-known and you won't qualify.
Lesko appears to admit this. According to the
Washington City Paper:
Lesko acknowledges that his schtick obscures the enormous difficulties in
securing government grants, but he sees no need to apologize for it. “A
degree of lying—you know, white lies—seems to be inherent in all languages
and all forms of communication,” he wrote in the introduction to his book Free Money to Pay Your Bills. “It’s really not lying; it’s more a matter
of not presenting the downside of a situation.”
Other problems with Lesko
There are other problems with Lesko's facts, too. The New York
Times criticizes him for making the false statement that he was a columnist for
Most people find his advertisements obnoxious, at best. Until recently, Lesko screams, shouts and runs around like a
maniac, pretending to be chased by government agents. His latest commercial
features him speaking in a hushed tone of voice, probably in response to online
backlash against his usual screaming technique. But while that doesn't address
the quality of his products, he also claims in this
commercial that he has a 'zero customer unsatisfaction rating, and he intends to
keep it that way'. However, there are countless forums on the Internet with
people who have purchased his book and find it to be a useless scam [see
and is compared to the other fraudulent television personality,
Miss Cleo. The book guarantees a refund for up to 90 days, but customers report on the
Ripoffreport website that the telephone number leads to a dead recording,
e-mails are sent back to them, and nobody responds to requests for refunds,
ignoring and avoiding the refund guarantee.
Besides, this, Lesko seems to be advocating that we should all behave like
Welfare Queens and try to rip off our own government. Example from
Mike Ferguson's Geocities page:
"One of Lesko's marketing claims is 'The government grants $750 Billion
in small business grants and free government grants each year. Let Matthew Lesko
help you get your share.' Free is an interesting and ignorant choice of words,
of course. This money is not free. Take a look at your paycheck stub and you
will see who pays for these 'free' handouts. Lesko is merely facilitating the
exchange of money from your pocket into the pockets of others, via the
"Lesko's website even offers a new, updated 770-plus page book for 2003. The
book is pitched with the following statement: 'Billions of dollars are given out
every year that you can use and Lesko's book will show you how to get it.' In
other words, send in $30 and you learn how to pilfer the hard work of others.
Apparently, our society has become so jaded to government waste, so conditioned
to governmental theft that we not only reward someone who markets a way to get
in on the looting, we celebrate him and marvel at his resourcefulness."
Even if Lesko is attempting to teach ordinary citizens how to bilk the
government for funds from programs that are intended for the truly needy, this
is not the worst of it. The simply fact is the government is NOT going to pay
your bills. Lesko's commercials distort and exaggerate the intent and
application of common government programs to make it sound like he has secret
knowledge of special government programs to hand out money to anyone who asks.
Summary: Why Matthew Lesko's books are, at best, a complete waste:
Lesko presents names, addresses, phone numbers and descriptions of government
and private agency grant and assistance programs and for this reason, many say
he is not actually scamming people, just exaggerating the value of his books.
But gross exaggerations and misleading advertisements meet our definition of a
scam; and that is what Lesko does.
- The information he sells is publicly available from many of
sources, for free; such as the phone book and Google.
- Much, if not the vast majority, of the programs in the book don't
apply to the average citizen. Many are government programs that you
already know about and are not eligible for, like Medicare and Medicaid.
- The government has declared him a fraud: The New York Consumer
Board recently said, “The author of ‘Free Money to Pay Your Bills’ admits
there is no money to pay your bills.” Lesko’s latest claim is that the
government has $350 billion hidden that people can use to pay off their
debts. The state of New York has come out and said Lesko’s claims are not
true. Clark wants you to save your money, not spend it on a book that is not
- The Better Business Bureau for the Washington-area gave Lesko's
company an unsatisfactory rating. The BBB had received 85 complaints
about Lesko books in the past 36 months. The BBB wrote a warning to
consumers about Lesko's sales pitches in 2002, which still
appears on the
BBB's Web site. See this page for
status of lesko's company with the BBB.
- Lesko will sell your email address and other information he gathers
from you - And that means you will soon be receiving spams and scams: For
example, in July of 2003, the Federal Trade Commission settled deceptive
practices charges against an Oregon firm, Grant Search Inc. and a related
firm, Grant PAC. Grant Search and Grant PAC had purchased Lesko’s
customer lists from the list broker Nextmark, according to Nextmark's Web
site. The FTC said that the defendants operated a "grant-matching business
in which they falsely represented that consumers easily could obtain grants
from charitable foundations for virtually any reason.” According to
MSNBC, Lesko claims
it's a common business practice to sell or rent customer lists.
- Refunds - They're difficult to obtain. Anecdotal evidence on web
forums indicates that you'll probably have little success of obtaining an RNA
on your own and will need to involve the BBB to get a refund. According to
DC area Better Business Bureau: "The complaint allegations filed by
consumers primarily concern delivery issues, refund practices and in some
cases the quality of the product." When the BBB gets involved,
Lesko refunds the money.
Lesko's books are essentially useless collections of information that doesn't
apply to you and you can easily obtain on the internet for free. His books are little more than a self-serving attempt to
get into your wallet. The truth is Lesko is looking for free money to pay his
bills... from YOU!
What to do if YOU have been ripped off by Matthew Lesko
Go to the Washington, DC area Better Business Bureau and
file a complaint.
This link will take you directly to the complaint page:
More Information about Lesko