BBB Tip of the Week: ‘News’ websites
Just the other day I was watching TV with my family when we saw a commercial claiming a certain supplement made a 70-year-old man look like a 30-year-old. My natural skepticism causes me to believe that Photoshop is more likely to accomplish this “miracle” than any health product, no matter how beneficial.
The commercial reminded me of the Internet ads claiming “Spokane mom makes mountains of money working at home.” Only those ads often bear the seals of what seem to be news websites.
Is there such a thing as fake news? Yes!
Recently, a company that allegedly used fake news websites to deceptively market acai berry weight-loss products agreed to pay more than $2 million to settle charges brought by the Federal Trade Commission ( http://www.ftc.gov/ opa/2012/10/circa.shtm).
They’re not the only ones.
According to the FTC, Circa Direct LLC ran ads designed to look like news websites, with misleading titles such as “News 6” and “New Jersey Job Report.” They purported to provide investigative journalists’ reports on weight-loss products, work-at-home schemes, and penny auctions.
The FTC says they made false and unsupported claims about acai berry products and failed to disclose their financial relationship to the sellers of the products and services promoted on the fake news sites. Scambusters.com ( http://www.scambusters.org/ fakenewsstories.html) has some good tips on how to spot a con, including the following:
• Be skeptical if the page is promoting a miracle product (like health cures or how to run your car on water) or an easy-money scheme.
• Do a search on the name of the TV station or publication. If it’s a scam, you’ll generally find that there are no other pages or news reports from the same supposed newspaper or TV station.
For more information about recognizing and avoiding deceptive claims made by fake news sites that market acai berries for weight loss, see the FTC publication THIS JUST IN: Fake News Sites Promote Bogus Weight Loss Benefits of Acai Berry Supplements.
For more info or to report scams: Visit the BBB website at www.bbb.org. Call (509)455-4200 or (800) 356-1007.
Holly Doering, BBB editor