Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Will It Go Round in Circles? How to Tell if a Free Money Site is Full of …

I had a dizzying experience at a “free money” web site last week. Not because it was full of free money, but because every link led to nowhere. Seriously. The page spoke some accurate stuff about monetary help for heating in the lilheap (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance) program, and had a link. That led to another page talking about…lilheap. And that’s what it did, over and over, round and round. It never provided an actual link to the program, such as this link here to the lilheap clearinghouse. See how easy that was?

But off to the side, was a place where you could buy a book on all that. Of course! Once you get frustrated enough, they can relieve your frustration by selling you a book. Now, I know that not everybody has a day job like me, and you have to make a buck somehow, but really. That was the second “circular” free money site I’ve seen in the month. Here’s a hint, people. If the first or second go-round has nothing, dump the site, and search google with the site:.gov extension. Sometimes that helps, although some government sites now use .org, or outsource to a .com site. But if you can’t get direct information after a pass-through or two, just drop the site like it’s hot. I'm not saying it's a scam, because if you buy the book, it may have legit stuff.  But to me, first impressions count. 

A good place to go is your state's website, and run a search at the site--many have a search box, like I have for this blog.  Put in the word you want, like heating or aging or assistance, and see what comes up, and start contacting that department.  It might be that the state gives money to your county or city, and the assistance is given out at that level.  Or it may go through nonprofit agencies in your area. 

Also check your local library.  If you live in the Tucson, AZ area for instance, you have an awesome online resource created by your own public library.  Use it for all it's worth.

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