Fraudsters peddling health supplements are still using famous faces, such as Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden, to lure victims. Here’s how they’re now using fake courier websites.
We were recently contacted by a member of the public who decided to try a CBD supplement after seeing an advert online. But instead of charging £5 for a sample, the company took £198 from their account.
When challenged on that payment it apologised and said the standard-size product had already been shipped, but that the customer could return it for free for a full refund.
Six weeks later, it still hadn’t arrived.
Fake shipping trackers
According to the shipping tracker website there had been a ‘problem delivering it to the address’. The retailer then said it couldn’t help.
Something didn’t seem right, so the victim got in touch with Which? for help, explaining that the apparent endorsement of the product by Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden made her feel comfortable to make the purchase. The advert even appeared to show lots of positive reviews on Facebook.
At first glance the entire process looks legitimate: the company was responsive to the complaints and sent confirmation emails that included a link to track the ‘order’. But we found that the shipping ‘tracking’ website was a fake.
It had been cleverly designed to show a realistic timeline of the order, falsely reporting that it left a warehouse in California, USA, and travelled to the UK via air cargo, but then encountered an unexplained issue when being delivered.
This elaborate customer service experience disguised the scam. It’s probably hoped that victims give up and forget about their orders or write them off as being lost – we’ve heard from many victims of this very fraud. The company involved did not respond to our request for comment.
In this case, the victim used their debit card to pay, so they did benefit from some protection in the event of overcharging, using a process called chargeback. We advised that the victim contact their bank, which was familiar with this scam and fully refunded them within 24 hours.
Fake celebrity endorsements
Fake adverts and news articles using celebrities’ photos without permission are rife online and often feature fake positive reviews.
Famous faces commonly used include entrepreneurs such as Dragons’ Den stars Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones. Martin Lewis has also frequently had his image used without permission.
We got in touch with Deborah Meaden to make her aware of this case. She thanked us for bringing it to her attention and said:
“With the growing sophistication of online fraud, it becomes increasingly important to carry out checks before parting with cash online. A quick Google search will often reveal the truth and all online advertising should be read set against the premise of “If it looks too good to be true then it probably is!”
Celebrities do endorse many brands, but online ads featuring well-known names, especially ones that are promoting ‘wonder’ products or get-rich-quick schemes, should be treated with caution.
Have you seen fake celebrity endorsements for CBD oil or other products? Let us know in the comments.