In my previous article Tim McCallan And His Nine Lives in the Debt Relief World I covered the role of Tim McCallan in Intermark Communications, which later changed their name to IMM Interactive, but still located at 135 Crossways Park Drive, Woodbury, New York 11797.
The FTC took aim at a different product, other than debt relief but it moved in on what it found to be fake news sites pushing the product. I’ve covered these fake news site before, here.
The FTC filed a complaint for permanent injunction against IMM Interactive, Intermark Communications, COPEAC, and Intermark Media.
The complaint alleges:
Since at least February 2010, Defendant has advertised, marketed, and promoted various products to consumers throughout the United States, including acai berry products, which include but are not limited to Acai Optimum, Acai Reduce, Acai Pure, and LeanSpa (the “Acai Berry Products”), and also including companion products, which include but are not limited to Max Cleanse Pro, Advanced Cleanse, Rio Cleanse, Natura Cleanse, and Colotox (collectively, the “Companion Products”), all of which Defendant advertises, markets, and promotes with Acai Berry Products.
Defendant promotes products through websites designed to look like news reports. The sites use domain names such as channel2local.com, channel9healthbeat.com, channel9investigates.com, consumerproductsdaily.com, nbssnewsat6.com, and news4daily.tv, and include titles such as “Consumer Products Daily,” “Channel Local 2,” “9 News,” “News 9,” “NBS News 6,” and “News 4 Daily.” The sites often include the names and logos of major broadcast and cable television networks, falsely representing that the reports on the sites have been seen on these networks.
The sites purport to provide objective investigative reports authored by reporters or commentators typically pictured on the sites. The supposed authors of the reports claim to have tested the products on themselves and experienced dramatic and positive results. Following the reports are “responses” or “comments” that appear to be independent statements made by ordinary consumers.
In fact, Defendant’s news reports are fake. Reporters or commentators pictured on the sites are fictional and never conducted the tests or experienced the results described in the reports. The “responses” and “comments” following the reports are simply additional advertising content, not independent statements from ordinary consumers.
The sole purpose of Defendant’s websites is to promote the featured products on behalf of third-party merchants who then sell the products on other websites. Defendant’s promotional websites are designed to entice consumers to click on links that will transfer them to a merchant’s website. Defendant receives a commission or other payment for each consumer who clicks on a link and ultimately makes a purchase or signs up for a “free trial” on the merchant’s website. In this context, Defendant commonly is referred to as an “affiliate marketer.” Defendant also operates a network of affiliate marketers.
Defendant has failed to disclose in a clear and conspicuous manner that it is not objectively evaluating these products and, in fact, is being paid to promote the products. Defendant’s websites either fail entirely to disclose these facts, or fail to do so adequately. The relevant information, if disclosed at all, typically appears in small type at the bottom of the web page, following the fake consumer comments, well below the links to the products being sold. – Source
FTC Goes for a Temporary Restraining Order
The Federal Trade Commission also filed a request for a temporary restraining order to close this operation down.
The Federal Trade Commission asks that the Court take immediate action to stop an online marketing scheme that uses fake news websites and false weight loss claims to deceive consumers into purchasing products. For at least the past year, Defendant IMM Interactive, Inc. has operated numerous websites featuring phony investigative reports and reviews of a range of dubious products, including acai berry weight loss supplements. Defendant crafts the sites to look like legitimate news sites by using domain names such as channel9healthbeat.com and nbsnewsat6.com, and by displaying mastheads such as “NBS News” or News 9.” The sites also prominently claim that the reports have been “seen on” several major news outlets, including ABC and CNN. Defendant’s websites often feature a supposed reporter’s independent investigative report of losing twenty-five pounds after using an acai berry supplement for four weeks. The report is followed by a section full of glowing consumer “comments” about the product.
Nearly everything about these “news” sites is fake. The websites are not maintained by news organizations. The reporter, the investigation, and the consumer comments are all fabricated. Moreover, the claims about weight loss from acai berries are false: no evidence establishes that acai berries cause weight loss, and the dramatic weight loss Defendant describes is unachievable. Instead, the websites are simply advertisements aimed at deceptively enticing consumers to purchase the featured products from third party websites, thereby generating commissions for Defendant. The FTC has received numerous complaints from consumers who, having been deceived by fake news sites like those of Defendant, were charged between $60 and $100 for the products. Defendant has spent over $1 million to disseminate their deceptive ads throughout the Internet, and their deceptive conduct likely has injured thousands of consumers.
The FTC respectfully asks this Court to bring Defendant’s harmful practices to a swift end by entering the FTC’s proposed Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”). The FTC’s proposed TRO is narrowly tailored to enjoin Defendant’s illegal practices and preserve the Court’s ability to provide effective final relief. – Source
I have not looked around recently but either the FTC did not notice the fake news sites pushing debt relief services or maybe they felt they had enough to go after with the other items. Either way it targets these ads using the same underlying issue, they appeared to be deceptive, untruthful and misleading.
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