One of your favorite news sites has an exciting report about a new supplement that’s guaranteed to boost brain power, and improve memory and concentration—a kind of “Viagra for the brain.” There’s even an impressive endorsement by Steven Hawking—or maybe one by Anderson Cooper. Just enter your credit card information and you’ll never forget a name again, right?
Don’t Fall for the Fake News About Memory Pills
According to Andrew Johnson, a consumer education specialist at the Federal Trade Commission, scammers are building fake websites that look like your trusted news sites to fool you into buying phony cures—a miraculous memory pill that’s at the cutting edge of medicine.
The “news” stories on these sites really are fake news—they use so-called quotes from trustworthy figures like news personalities, and scientific or medical experts. They make wild claims about the pills’ effectiveness backed by nonexistent studies or no evidence at all. And they provide links so that you can buy the pills yourself.
The spoofed news sites link you to the sales page for the product—which no legitimate news site would ever do. Once you’re on that page, it’s tempting and easy to place an order with a credit or debit card.
You could lose more than just your money. Besides stealing your credit or debit card information and possibly your identity, the people selling these fake “cures” could misrepresent the ingredients they contain and use ones that may be harmful to you.
There is no such thing as a miraculous memory supplement. Before you hit Submit on any online transaction involving a miracle cure (whether it’s for memory loss, weight gain, sleep or any other issue) run it by your doctor—or at least Google the name. It’s likely to come up on one of the sites that tracks scams, such as Snopes.com. And if glowing reviews come up, that’s another reason not to trust it.
How to Spot a Fake Website
You might receive a link to one of these fake news sites in any number of ways:
In an email, even from someone you know
Via social media a networking platform like Facebook, in a chat session, in public comments on a forum, through a Skype message, or even in a blog post. And you could see a link to one of these fake news stories on a legitimate website that runs ads.
On the internet, prevention is the best medicine. This site has some good tips for spotting phony or spoofed websites (hint, a typo when you type in a website address can lead to a spoofed site, so always look for https:// – the “S” means it’s secure).
Google searches alone may not yield helpful information, since scamsters also load up fake positive stories on other fake websites to confuse or discourage investigation.
If You’ve Already Paid a Scammer
There’s still hope:
- Call the card company immediately
- Alert them to the fraudulent charge right away
- Ask if you are still eligible to get your money back
- Ask if you should get a new card with a new number to prevent more fraudulent charges
- Report the scam to the FTC
Have you ever been scammed online? Share your experience in the comments below and help someone else avoid the next scam!