Scam Report: Fake news sites selling diet pills
The Federal Trade Commission have put a stop to fake news sites endorsing Acai berry dietary pills, closing down Beony International with a more than $1.6 million settlement.
The FTC is an American organisation which protects consumers from being scammed. They put an end to 10 different scams disguised as news websites, filing them for being fake news sites used to trick people into purchasing their product. These websites are so effective because people trust the news (or what appears quite convincingly to be the news) and if you can’t trust the news who can be trusted?
The FTC filed against the marketers for several things including “failure to provide independent tests to support the claims made” and using fabricated customer comments which had been simply copied and pasted from other sites. This has resulted in many people entrusting these companies with their money and receiving a fraudulent, untested product in return. The Acai Berry supplement boasts losing 25 pounds in 4 weeks but has no empirical evidence to demonstrate their miraculous claims.
This article is going to explore what these fake news sites are, how to recognise them and also how to avoid them, while also discussing if Acai Berry is a valid weight loss supplement.
What are fake news sites?
Fake news sites have been developed in order to promote weight loss dietary pills. The websites are designed to imitate real news channels such as Fox News or CNN and upload stories and advertisements of their product. These sites consist of fully fledged homepages with various links and tabs, including official news logos.
They advertise these pills in the form of a news article, using persuasive lines such as “Here at Fox News, we were a little sceptical…so we decided to put the products to the test,” with an apparent news reporter investigating the case and exploring the results. They are comprised of images pasted from the real news site, with comments from “satisfied customers” praising the preposterous yet apparently possible dietary pill.
These fake news sites even include celebrity admiration, the Acai berry scam used Oprah Winfrey as a claim to fame, (to which she disassociated herself with.) “Nutrient related scams often rely on celebrity endorsements or high profile promotions for their success,” as nutritionist Johnston reports.
Fake news sites have been known to not only advertise weight loss supplements, but also debt reduction, anti-aging products and work at home opportunities. The product sellers pay the marketer of the site a commission rate dependable on the amount of consumers they deceive.
These websites offer a “free-trial” of the product, asking only for the postage payment, making it appear to be a good deal as if it there were nothing to lose when in actual fact the consumer has just given the seller their personal information including bank details which can be abused. Read more about these fake sites and the FTC’s action against them on the ftc.gov website here.
Does Acai Berry promote weight loss?
Acai berry is a fruit resembling blueberries found on an Acai palm tree which grows in the amazon forest. Due to its exotic origin, the berry easily spoils and has therefore been converted into a tablet form, renowned for its super food properties.
It is enriched with anti-oxidants, more so than blueberries, claiming to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer yet has no proven connection with weight loss. These anti-oxidants work by protecting the cells that become damaged by diseases like cancer. There are also claims that Acai Berries contain healthy type of fat called mono-saturates which prevents swelling, again reducing the spreading of cancer.
Yet perhaps it is this property of the fruit which has been exaggerated to say it aids weight loss. One advert stated the Acai Berry “results in quicker fat breakdown, will increase energy levels and fights fatigue,” yet these ideas are completely untested and are nothing more than theories constructed by amateurs. “Acai is a nutrient-rich source of antioxidants, much like many other fruits, but there is nothing magical about the fruit to cause weight loss,” says David Grotto, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. Although, acai berry pills may be a health investment, they are not however the dietary aid they have been advertised as.
Other dietary scams include pills such as Slimtone, Hydroxycut and Avesil, all claiming to boost metabolism. Acai berry supplements apparently have the ability to process food quickly and burn fat more efficiently. Fake news sites have promoted the pills by claiming 25 pounds can be lost within a month with no change in current diet or exercise regime. This would be physically impossible to rely drastically upon a dietary pill to do all this with no added effort from the dieter.
Dieting supplements have different methods of enhancing weight loss, depending on the pill itself. Fat burners and appetite suppressants are the most popular choices. Fat burners convert food into energy rather than fat and appetite suppressants is a more long term method to reduce the appetite therefore reducing the calorie intake. Acai Berry pills claim to do both these and do all the work for the dieter.
All dietary supplements are there to aid weight loss in conjunction with a balanced diet and exercise and cannot possibly perform the miracles which fake news sites claim them to do. The Acai Berry pills ranged in price from $70 – $100 and with it being a continuous practice this raked in a substantial amount for the scammers. Acai Berries are expensive because all the anti-oxidants are in the skin of the fruit, comprising of only 5% and the rest is seed. Blueberries, Blackberries and raspberries hold very similar qualities to the Acai Berries and are more moderate in price.
Acai Berries can also be found in certain drinks such as smoothies but come attached to high sugar and calories. This also means a substantial amount of Acai Berries would have to be consumed to have any real effect. Visit WebMD for even more detail on possible health benefits from acai berries.
Help in Spotting Fake Sites
It can be difficult to spot a scam yet fake news sites have clues to be aware of mainly, “As a rule, legitimate news organisations do not endorse products.” Images and comments of this product will be dotted about the news site and the links on the page do not work or instead, take the viewer to a purchasing form.
Also, check the URL bar. For example, if it is Fox News the domain should contain this as opposed to a random jumble of words and numbers. If the proposal seems unrealistic i.e. losing a drastic amount of weight with no effort, then it probably is unrealistic and the product isn’t legitimate.
These sites will often offer a free sample or free trial, which is the way to catch a consumer. With the free trial, it is understandable the dieter may think that there is nothing to lose, yet these sites aren’t as free as they claim to be. They ask for a small postage charge which may seem fair but in reality the consumer has just handed over their credentials to a con artist.
The Importance of Researching the Company
The FTC offers tips on avoiding being scammed. They say “find the terms and conditions” and “research the company”. If the terms can’t be found or understood then do not sign up. Research who and where the product comes from, with particular focus on customer reviews. The problem with purchasing from the internet is that the seller may not disclose contact details and can keep their identity well hidden. Ensure there is way to cancel any future deliveries and that there are no pre-checked boxes. Finally, keep an eye on bank statements. If there is any suspicious, unauthorised activity then alert the authorities immediately.
There are ways to gain a refund if necessary yet it can be a lengthy process. After cancelling the product, gain information on the site such as contact details and when the first payment was made. It is also important to read the small prints to see what exactly has been agreed to, so the consumers can argue their case, bearing their rights in mind.
If however everything is legal and is there in the terms and conditions, the consumer will have difficulty reclaiming their money on account of overlooking the details. There are companies like the FTC or the Office of Fair Trading who deal with consumer issues like these and are the ones to contact if in receipt of a suspected scam.
Don’t Be Disheartened
It’s a shame these scams are out there, not only ripping off consumers but also giving the genuine dietary supplements a bad reputation. When scams are heard off it instantly repels sales as, understandably, people become cautious of what they are purchasing and assume all supplements are the same con. Always research the product and source and in a matter of minutes the sincerity of the product will be revealed. The FTC has not only closed these markets down, but have raised worldwide awareness of the dangers associated with purchasing products online, especially fake dietary supplements which seem to be a popular scam.
It appears if they use the name of a well-known supplement, like Acai Berries, then people forget to check the ingredients or the effects. One thing to be aware of with these products, is yes they may contain the ingredients but how much exactly? 1% Acai Berry is not going to have any health effects but can still be overpriced.
With regards to dieting scams, dieters should not disregard all supplements but should practice with caution, ensuring the customer is fully aware about what they are actually getting for their money. If serious about using the supplements, do the research beforehand and use products which have proven results, unlike the Acai Berry.
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