FTC, Madigan Crack Down on Acai "News Sites"

Formal complaints say the sites are meant to look like legitimate news sources but are really just ads

By Lisa Balde
|  Tuesday, Apr 19, 2011  |  Updated 5:47 PM CDT
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Federal regulators say 10 sites in particular are meant to look like legitimate news sources but really are just advertisements enticing consumers to buy the product.

Federal regulators say 10 sites in particular are meant to look like legitimate news sources but really are just advertisements enticing consumers to buy the product.

Ever seen those fake news sites advertising acai berry weight-loss products?

The Federal Trade Commission and Illinois attorney general's office announced plans Tuesday to stop production of such sites, alleging they use deceptive marketing tactics.

Federal regulators say 10 sites in particular are meant to look like legitimate news sources but really are just advertisements enticing consumers to buy the product.

Complaints have been filed in federal court in Illinois, as well as in Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Georgia and Washington, contending the sites mislead consumers into thinking they're reading actual news reports.

The sites in question use titles such as "News 6 News Alerts" or "Health 5 Beat Health News" and headlines that look like station exclusives. .

"Almost everything about these sites is fake," said David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement.

As part of the FTC crackdown, Attorney General Lisa Madigan has sued a Chicago-area man for fraudulently marketing acai berry dieting products through phony news websites.

A lawsuit was filed against Ishmael Lopez Jr., of Sauk Village, Ill. Lopez allegedly operates websites featuring fake news articles advocating acai berry, as well as bodybuilding supplements and teeth-whitening agents.

“These Internet con artists are profiting from their purposely deceptive marketing ploys," Madigan said in a prepared statement.

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