June 7 2016

FTC Warns of Scammers Mimicking Familiar Email Addresses

By: Rich Hosford

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning residents of an email scam that mimics the accounts of people you know to either get you to buy a phony product or provide personal information. 


“An email from a friend urges you to try new weight-loss pills,” the FTC says in a scam warning. “There’s a link to an article about a celebrity’s amazing results with the pills, and the article’s author says he even tried this miracle product himself. With all these trusted sources, why wouldn’t you give it a try?”


Because it’s all a sham, the FTC states. The email is not from a friend, but from a spammer who hacked into someone’s email account. The link they sent leads to a fake news site with made up success stories. 


“Neither celebrities nor reporters ever really endorsed the pills,” the warning reads. “And the pill, itself? Questionable, at best.”


The FTC charged four defendants who used these tactics with deceptively marketing their weight-loss products. According to the FTC, they sent millions of people illegal spam emails that were made to look like they came from someone familiar. The FTC says the emails linked to fake news sites with fictitious articles and phony endorsements – even, supposedly, from Oprah. What’s more, says the FTC, there’s no solid science backing the defendants’ claims about the pills.


There are a few lessons to draw from this story:

  • • Don’t click emailed links or open attachments, even if you think you know the sender. Emails that seem to be from a friend might not be.

  • • Intrigued by weight-loss claims? Anyone saying they lost more than a pound a week without diet and exercise is probably lying.

  • • Learn how to spot a fake news site, which often include fake celebrity endorsements. These actually are elaborate ads created by marketers.

  • File a complaint with the FTC if you ever spot a scam, or get sold on phony product promises.


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