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If you’ve spent even a short time perusing online news sites, you’ve likely seen the ad: A poorly animated drawing of a woman’s stomach with accompanying text, “Cut down a bit of your belly everyday by following this 1 weird old tip.” It probably comes as no shock that the “weird old tip” doesn’t exist – actually, that single ad actually services as a gateway to a variety of miracle diet products from multiple companies.
The Washington Post has a detailed report on government efforts to crack down on deceptive online weight-loss advertising. As we noted on this blog several months back, the Federal Trade Commission has petitioned federal courts to crack down on organizations that use fake news sites to sell acai berry products. But the “1 Tip” ad umbrella doesn’t stop at berries – weight-loss companies are hawking everything from African mangoes to human hormones as easy way to shed the pounds.
Typically, the “news” story offers a link to another site, where customers can order a “free” sample of the featured products, simply by entering a credit card number. In doing so, the customer has essentially authorized the company to continue billing them for additional shipments until they cancel the service – something much easier said than done.
The small print at the bottom of one of these sites tells the real story: “This website, and any page on the website, is based loosely off a true story, but has been modified in multiple ways including, but not limited to: the story, the photos, and the comments. Thus, this page, and any page on this website, are not be taken literally or as a non-fiction story.” Bottom line, save the money on online gimmicks and stick to sensible diet and exercise.