Acai Berry scammers $2 million lighter after FTC settlement

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order, Spam, Twitter

Acai berry capsules, courtesy of ShutterstockThe affiliate ad network behind a tidal wave of bogus pitches for Acai Berry weight loss products and colon cleansers has agreed to pay a $2 million penalty to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for deceptive advertising.

The FTC announced the judgement on Wednesday against Clickbooth Affiliate Network of Sarasota, Florida and said the funds recovered from Clickbooth would be used to provide refunds to consumers who were taken in by the company's deceptive marketing practices.

The complaint charges Clickbooth with a variety of deceptive advertising practices to promote products with names like "Acai Pure," "Acai Max," "Pure Berry Max" and "Acai Advanced Cleanse."

Among other things, Clickbooth is alleged to have worked hand-in-glove with its affiliate marketers: helping design ads, tweak product claims and even design web sites on which the ads would appear.

Many of those sites were designed to look like news sites, with ads posing as news stories with titles like "Acai Berry Diet Exposed: Miracle Diet or Scam?" (Spoiler alert: it's a scam.) Those sites often contained the names and logos of broadcast and cable TV networks and made it seem as if the fake stories originated from those networks.

FTC logoConsumers were given false promises about the effectiveness of the Acai Berry treatments and the sites failed to disclose that consumers who signed up for a "free trial" of the Acai Berry treatments were actually billed on a recurring basis for additional shipments of the product, the FTC said.

The FTC named John Daniel Lemp, the chief executive of Clickbooth.com, LLC, as well as IntegraClick LLC, and said that he and the companies he controlled were responsible for the false claims made by affiliate marketers.

Acai Berry treatments were a popular topic of spam email, tweets and social media posts. They were also linked to a number of malicious incidents, including account hijacking.

On numerous occasions, spammers compromised Twitter accounts, including the accounts of Hyatt and NHS Direct, and used them to spread fake testimonials lauding the benefits of the Acai Berry weight loss treatment.

The FTC responded with a string of cases against both the companies pushing Acai Berry treatments and the affiliate marketers they used. In September, for example, the FTC charged affiliate networks IMM Interactive and Coleadium with making deceptive claims and ordered them to pay $ 1million to settle charges and agree to monitor affiliates in their network to make sure that they comply with federal truth in advertising laws.


Acai berry capsules, courtesy of Shutterstock

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8 Responses to Acai Berry scammers $2 million lighter after FTC settlement

  1. Bob · 622 days ago

    Nice Article. now how do I get my share of the settlement because I was taken in and lied to about these false claims. I only want $5,000.00 as this is what I deserve for being misled and deceived. Thank you.

  2. Nigel · 622 days ago

    Wow! I'm not sure whether this agreement will fully compensate all those who were victimized by the acai berry scammers, but the fact that any of them will receive any restitution at all is a welcome case of the political state actually functioning as real government, rather than merely as an instrument of revenge to "punish" wrongdoers. If restitution (rather than retribution) were the principal priority in response to such crimes, actual justice wouldn't be the rare commodity it usually is in society.

  3. Julio · 622 days ago

    I think just like Google, Clickbooth will adapt to the changing regulatory environment. They have been around forever, so they obviously have a strong business model. After seeing so many large networks fail recently, I’d like to see one move past it and continue to be successful.

  4. Robert Gracie · 622 days ago

    Finally something has been done about this Acai Berry adverts across the web I have seen...they should also make an apology too and shut down the Acai Berry adverts also thats what I want to see the FTC do to them force them into doing that...

  5. Guest · 622 days ago

    What's next, green coffee beans?

  6. J David Crawford · 620 days ago

    With assistance from my credit card company I was able to reverse charges for a product I did not order and stop recurring shipments of the Acai Berry supplement. I could not believe the deceptive hype behind Acai Berry and the Cleanse product.

  7. We need to crackdown on *ALOT* of these frauds! Everyone knows! If we don't... Get out your doggybags!

  8. Guest · 618 days ago

    How brain dead people can be to even buy this stuff?

    A fool and his money soon part ways.

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About the author

Paul is a Boston-based reporter and industry analyst with more than a decade of experience covering the IT industry, cyber security and hacking. His work has appeared on threatpost.com, The Boston Globe, salon.com, NPR's Marketplace, Fortune Small Business, as well as industry publications including ZDNet, Computerworld, InfoWorld, eWeek, CIO , CSO and ITWorld.com. Paul got his 15 minutes as an expert guest on The Oprah Show - but that's a long story.