PUBLIC HEALTH
May 2, 2011

Bogus Acai Berry Claims

The Federal Trade Commission urges courts to crack down on fake news sites' phony claims about acai berry and weight loss.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has urged federal courts to put their foot down on phony websites that tout the wonders of acai berry for weight loss and, of course, sell acai berry products. The FTC wants to freeze the assets of the 10 companies behind the bogus websites until the issues are taken to trial.

The sites even use the logos of major organizations like CNN and ABC to appear as if they have been seen on these channels or been endorsed by them.

According to the FTC, the fake websites pose as objective news and health sites, "evaluating" the acai berry-weight loss connection. They have titles like "News 6 News Alerts" and "Health 5 Beat Health News." The sites even use the logos of major organizations like CNN and ABC to appear as if they have been seen on these channels or been endorsed by them. Some "document" reporters’ or consumers’ experiences with the products, usually claiming to have lost huge amounts of weight in short amounts of time.

But the sites are nothing more than elaborate advertisements for acai berry weight loss products.

According to David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, "[a]lmost everything about these sites is fake. The weight loss results, the so-called investigations, the reporters, the consumer testimonials, and the attempt to portray an objective, journalistic endeavor."

The FTC will ask courts to require the fraudulent companies to refund the money of consumers who have bought products from the sites. Numerous consumers have made complaints to the FTC regarding the products purchased from these sites, which can range from $70 to $100. The FTC says that all together, the companies have likely spent over $10 million in advertising their sites in various ways, and have made much more than that in product sales to unsuspecting consumers.

The FTC says that acai berry for weight loss has become a huge source of internet scamming in recent years. For this reason, they have published a notice to consumers about how these sites operate, in order to educate people about various aspects of both illegitimate and legitimate websites. (For example, real news organizations like CNN and ABC do not endorse products.) There is also information on the FTC’s website about how to lodge a complaint if you have been the victim of a similar scan.

The FTC’s news release on the pending trials can be found here.

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