Bob Sullivan covers Internet scams and consumer fraud for MSNBC.com. He is the winner of multiple journalism awards for his coverage of online crime and author of Gotcha Capitalism: How Hidden Fees Rip You Off Every Day and What You Can Do About It. and Your Evil Twin: Behind the Identity Theft Epidemic.
By Bob Sullivan
“The Web is now littered with fake blogs, fake ads, fake acai berry products, fake work-at-home jobs and fake Web sites saying how great all these things are. You'll even see ads for such products on all major media Web sites, as they've become the Web's answer to late-night infomercials.
The FTC recently issued an opinion clarifying that fake testimonials on Web sites are a violation of federal law, and some of the over-the-top ads have disappeared. But the fakosphere is far from dead.
I know it's tempting to obey one rule that will make your tummy flat, make your bank account fat or make your cancer disappear. But you can't believe everything you read online. Never purchase a product without searching Google using this search term: "(Product name) scam" and "(Product Name) complaint." Then, spend three minutes familiarizing yourself with the reputation of the item you are about to buy and the price you are about to pay. One or two complaints might say one thing, but 500 complaints should certainly scream at you that you should put that credit card back in your wallet.”