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Scam Alert

Fake News Websites Pitch Get-Rich-Quick Schemes

The real news: The sites are advertorials

You may not know Kelly Richards, but you may have read about her success. According to a website calling itself News Daily 7, she makes $7,487 a month working part-time from her home — which may be right near yours.

See also: Wishful winners.

Their rags-to-riches tales are touted on computer pages that in design and name seem like they're the online faces of news organizations — in addition to News Daily 7, there's News1Report and InternetNews8.

Often the sites tell us that a skeptical reporter has conducted an investigation into a particular product and found that it's … fabulously profitable!

Here's the real news: These are not real customers, news hounds or news organizations. Despite the presence of the logos of the likes of MSNBC and USA Today, the sites are advertorials hawking work-at-home kits. And you're never told on them what the kits contain, just that they can open the door to big money. At similar sites or in unsolicited emails, the same kinds of pitches are made for fad diets and other Internet-promoted products.

On April 19, the Federal Trade Commission announced it was asking courts to take action against 10 operators of fictional news websites promoting acai berry products.

"Almost everything about these sites is fake," David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "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 commission, the sites bilked consumers out of more than $10 million. Acai berry pills sold this way, for instance, were claimed to prompt weight loss of 25 pounds within four weeks.

The FTC alleges that some marketers also use fake blogs in which "ordinary, everyday consumers" detail their success with the product. Those blogs are, in fact, fabrications, the commission says.

FTC official Charles Harwood added that the commission will continue to "look at" marketers that set up fake news websites for other products — including work-at-home kits and penny auctions. Acai weight loss products were the initial focus, he said, "because they are so prevalent on the Internet" via fake news websites.

According to the FTC, the sites earn a commission when consumers "click through" to read the phony news reports and are directed to ordering pages operating by the merchants selling the items.

The commission posted a consumer alert about the acai sites.

In the meantime, here's how you can spot the sites for what they are yourself.

Next: The fine print. >>

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