Last week, we shared a KING 5 report about a Washington man accused of creating fake news sites to peddle acai berry weight-loss products. Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it is taking action to halt 10 operators of these bogus sites. Documents filed in six federal courts seek to permanently bar the allegedly deceptive claims and to require the companies to provide money for refunds to consumers who purchased supplements.
The FTC complaints allege that typical fake news sites have titles such as “News 6 News Alerts,” “Health News Health Alerts,” or “Health 5 Beat Health News.” The sites often include the names and logos of major media outlets – such as ABC, Fox News, CBS, CNN, USA Today, and Consumer Reports – and falsely represent that the reports on the sites have been seen on these networks.
“Almost everything about these sites is fake,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The weight loss results, the so-called investigations, the reporters, the consumer testimonials, and the attempt to portray an objective, journalistic endeavor.”
According to the FTC, the defendants collectively have paid more than $10 million to advertise their fake news sites, and have likely received well in excess of that amount in ill-gotten commissions.
The sites often tout products sold in connection with free trial offer. Our office has received complaints from consumers who responded to such offers then were surprised when their credit cards were charged for additional shipments.
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