Curious About Fake Web Ads

By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent

BOSTON (CBS) – It was an ad on the Internet that sounded too good to be true, but Richard Morse from Rowley was intrigued about a teeth whitening product because it featured a testimonial from a local woman.

But he did some checking on the woman and then Declared His Curiosity to WBZ-TV.

He asked, “When will this scam be stopped? ‘Liz’, an ordinary mom from Rowley discovered how to get a celebrity smile for a little over $4.00. I live in Rowley and no one knows her, or the local dentist who was going to charge her $500.”

Richard ordered the same products “Liz” vouched for, but felt misled when all kinds of charges started appearing on his credit card bill.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports

Increasingly frustrated, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

“I blew up this picture of “Liz” on the Internet and printed it out,” he said.

Then he took it all over his small town.

“I went to the local diner. I went to the town clerk who knows everyone. I went to the post office, and I went to the local dentists and found no one that recognizes her,” he added.

So does “Liz” from Rowley really exist?

WBZ reached out to the teeth whitening companies associated with her testimonial and couldn’t get an answer from them.

The Federal Trade Commission is pretty clear when it comes to personal testimonials. They have to be honest and fairly represent the product.

In other words, outlandish promises are not allowed.

Edgar Dworsky of found some odd testimonials for web sites promoting contests for free iPads and iPhones just for participating in a survey.

It caught his eye when one of those ‘real people’ claimed to be from Somerville, his hometown.

As he checked further, he found many dubious characters.

At one point, one woman was identified as being from Los Angeles, but then her hometown changed to Somerville too. The original man who was from Somerville then came up as hailing from Los Angeles.

Dworsky doesn’t believe this is an accident, but that these companies play a sophisticated game of identifying where your IP address originates.

They hope this will increase the appeal of the ad and make you more likely to participate.

One site clearly wanted participants to give their cell phone numbers.

If you read the fine print, you see why.

Just by participating in the survey, you are agreeing to a bunch of extra services on your phone. The charge can go as high as $20 a month.

“There have been cases where you give your cell phone number and all of a sudden you find charges crammed into your cell phone for services you never wanted,” explained Dworsky.

It can be very difficult to cancel these cell services or a trial offer on one of these products.

Often, you have to contact your mobile phone provider or your credit card holder to intervene.

  • Patrick Klos

    Scams like this are nothing less than frauds, but it seems the government and the Internet Service Providers have better things to do than to shut down these sites?!? I’ve reported many of the to various authorities with little response and even less results! Any time a web site implies that their product is endorsed or used by someone (coincidentally) near you, it’s almost certainly a scam. There is a simple web page feature that will simply provide the name of the city and state the viewer of the web page is in, and the scammers use that feature to insert the city and state to make it sound like someone else near you is already a customer. Also, many times, the ad will claim to be a CBS or NBC “news” organization (which clearly, they are not) trying to imply they are simply reporting on the “great new product” – completely FRAUD!

  • Dave B

    Interesting, this article has links to “advertisments” for these very same scams!

  • Sue Eskenazi Sweeney

    I particapated in a survey for a laptop a few years ago – never got the laptop, but is being harrassed by Disney Videos each month to buy videos. They tell me I need to buy two videos to stop this harrassement. Since, I have bought at least four videos and still they won’t cancel me as I have written and returned many videos. They still claim that I need to purchase two videos. Sue from Salem

  • Patrick Klos

    Good catch Dave B! You’d think that CBS would be all over web sites like “” for giving the clear impression that the site is somehow endorsed or affiliated with CBS by their use of an actual CBS news video (from YouTube) about debt management and debt programs??

  • Bill Catz

    Glad somebody finally followed-up on this nonsense. I was starting to think maybe there was some sort of miracle going on in Roslindale. Why just last week one woman lost 50lbs overnight, a guy made a million bucks from EBay and some other gal got a brand-new car on Quibids for $17.50!!! And they ALL have the brightest smiles in the universe! Plus that Publishers Clearinghouse guy was going to bring me a check for 12 million once I bought a couple hundred bucks worth of magazines…

    Yeah, I noticed this malarkey for a long time and never questioned if it was legal or not. Just for yucks, I’m going to change my on-line home area to some remote island with the least people on the planet and see what happens.

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