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When I can’t sleep at night I watch infomercials.

I think I’ve seen just about every ab-busting, steam-cleaning, crows feet-erasing, pimple-blasting, infra-red-roasting, hair-straightening, ice-crushing, scrap book-decorating, jewel-dazzling, trans-fat-eliminating, hepa-filtering, cellulite-melting, drop-shipping, internet-marketing, stock-trading and real estate-buying gizmo, lotion, potion, plan or scheme imaginable.

In those wee, small hours of the morning when I’m tossing from side to side, too tired to get up but too awake to really sleep, it somehow helps to know that somewhere out there somebody else is up, just like me, but with a credit card in hand. That’s kinda perverse isn’t it?

There’s something about listening to all those testimonials from people just like me, who’ve gone down 4 dress sizes, tamed their nappy heads, took 10 years off their face and made $5,000 in one day that just makes me want to believe that indeed, all things are possible. Nothing gives my REM-cycle deprived brain more pleasure than hearing their affable claims of wealth, health and happiness.

At 2 am this morning, after watching the 2 previous infomercials (one on the Shark floor steamer and the other on the Cricut – which I think is really cool in a Bedazzled, let’s enter my two-year-old in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant kind of way and something I’d be tempted to buy if I had small kids at home), I watched one about a real estate plan to buy houses for as little as $300.

This infomercial claims that you can buy houses in the US and Canada and own them free and clear simply by paying the back taxes on a defaulted property. Of course most people don’t know about this little trick but you can learn how to make your fortune by purchasing the kit that will show you how.

During the program they showed photos of all types of houses and land that people had bought for mere hundreds of dollars then turned around and made a great profit when sold for their market value. As I watched the photos of the houses all I kept thinking was, “What happened to the people who used to live there?” If, as was claimed in the infomercial, there are millions of defaulted homes up for grabs, what happened to the people who once owned them? Did the Rapture happen when I wasn’t looking?

Not only did the whole thing gave me a creepy House of Sand and Fog vibe but it reminded me of shysters selling Mississippi bottom land. Fortunately for Canadians, these tax sale property schemes aren’t as easy as that infomercial would lead you to believe.

Yes, the bank and finance companies do foreclose and put properties under power of sale. People do loose their homes but the whole thing is a process that takes time and the owner has right up to the closing date to pay off the mortgage. Furthermore, lest they be sued, the bank must make every effort to sell the house for its true market value. Even in the cases where a property is being sold for back taxes, that amount is the actual amount of taxes due and not “pennies on the value of the property”.

This morning I wondered how many cash-strapped, looking-for-a-better-way people dialed that 800 number to charge the $39.99 to their nearly-maxed credit cards. This morning my REM-cycle deprived brain got angry. Angry thinking about all those insomniacs who got duped. Angry about all those people who lost their homes to the greed of sub-prime mortgage speculators. And damn it, I couldn’t fall back to sleep!