Celebrities aren’t the only victims of a long-running Internet scam that uses fake celebrity endorsements to peddle skin care products online. Ordinary individuals who fall for the advertorials (advertisements written to look like articles) in some cases wind up bilked out of hundreds of dollars.
The perpetrators use networks of bogus web sites, social media, and e-commerce technology to trick users into ordering “free trials” of supposedly celebrity-endorsed products, only to find they’ve unknowingly signed up to receive regular shipments for which they’re automatically charged on a monthly basis.
The Internet is rife with consumer complaints about these scams. “I saw an ad on Facebook about some eye serum and eye cream,” one user wrote on a web site devoted to reporting fraud:
All you pay is shipping & handling. Nowhere did they say you started an automatic shipment every month. When I received the shipment, there were no papers inside box describing it or telling me anything about the auto ship. There was no return address either. Two weeks after, I was billed $97.43 for eye serum and $98.66 for eye cream. When I called, they said I only paid for shipment and since I didn’t call or return products I was charged for a whole product then. What a rip-off!!! I haven’t even used the crap!
The version using the name and likeness of Priscilla Chan appeared online in April 2017. Chan, says the article, has formulated her own “natural, holistic” skin care line about which “Ivy League scientists” and “Hollywood dermatologists” are raving.
The use of Mark Zuckerberg’s name and likeness wasn’t authorized either, despite appearing in this and a previous iteration of the advertorial which claimed that Zuckerberg was quitting Facebook to become a cosmeceutical mogul.
The web site on which the Priscilla Chan advertorial was posted (www.piop.net) contains literally dozens more examples following the same formula, each featuring a different celebrity. Kellyanne Conway, Joanna Gaines, Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Scarlett Johansson, Ann Coulter, Joy Behar, Ellen Degeneres, Meryl Streep, and Kate Middleton are just a few of the names used.