It’s for sure you’ve seen ads like this online and in social media. They use a litany of iffy claims to advertise equally questionable products: “drop the pounds” diet pills, IQ-boosting brain supplements, CBD cure-alls, get-rich-quick promotions, and the like. But what separates these ads from others is that they appear – emphasis on appear – to have the endorsement of celebrities and big names in the business world. What they really are is what we call testi-phony-als: deceptive promotions that illegally and without authorization cut and paste famous faces into their ads. And the latest slew of these ads on websites, in pop-ups, and on social media platforms deceptively feature panelists from TV’s “Shark Tank” and purported screenshots of the show.
The FTC has taken law enforcement action against promotions that falsely claimed to be endorsed by influential actors, journalists, or names in the news. There was the diet pill sold with the false representation that it was recommended by Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray. Then it was the “muscle builder” that falsely pasted Will Ferrell’s head onto another body. The FTC also took action against a purported “brain pill” that illegally used the image of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and falsely claimed to be endorsed by Bill Gates and the late Dr. Stephen Hawking.
The FTC has advice for consumers about how to spot and avoid these illegal promotions, but we also have a to-the-point message for cut-and-paste crooks: Cut it out. Deceptively using someone’s name or image to sell your product is a violation of the FTC Act and state laws. The FTC Endorsement Guides are clear: “When the advertisement represents that the endorser uses the endorsed product, the endorser must have been a bona fide user of it at the time the endorsement was given.” And lying about celebrities endorsing your product could prove very expensive if you received or are on notice of the FTC’s Penalty Offenses Concerning Endorsements. Under this authority, marketers can liable for more than $50,000 per violation, which can quickly add up to millions of dollars in civil penalties.
Have you spotted one of these bogus promotions? Report it to the FTC.
The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.
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Hello ftc.gov admin, You always provide valuable feedback and suggestions.
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