FTC Takes Aim at ‘Fake News’ Websites

By Mikal E. Belicove|For Entrepreneur.com|July 5, 2011

From snake oil to sea monkeys, selling fraudulent — or at least disappointing — goods can return a quick buck, but the risks are often high.

The Federal Trade Commission recently asked the federal courts to put a temporary halt to the tactics of 10 companies using what appeared to be bona fide “news sites” to market acai-berry products as a weight-loss management tool. The FTC wants the courts to put an end to such deceptive practices and freeze the assets of these website owners until a court decision can be rendered. In each case, the website owner agreed to the terms of a preliminary injunction and either shuttered the site themselves or disclosed that the site in question is not an objective news organization.

Although most of the sites have since been shut down, the FTC has promised to go after copycats and other fraudsters. But even if you’re not selling a product that boasts fake medical claims, the federal complaint should, at the very least, warn entrepreneurs and start-ups away contemplating such deceptive measures in order to make a buck.

Here are four ne’er-do-well tactics to steer clear of when selling products online:

  1. Making false claims: The websites currently targeted by the FTC are designed to appear as legitimate news organizations — some even displaying the names and logos of ABC, CBS, Fox News, CNN, USA Today and Consumer Reports. They feature bold headlines that proclaim…

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