Takes On Weight Loss Scam Ads, Offenders Still Spotted

Source: Bad Ads Trend Alert: False Claims in Online Weight Loss Advertisement

Source: Bad Ads Trend Alert: False Claims in Online Weight Loss Advertisements

Lose weight without changing a thing! It’s a fantasy crafted and perpetuated by direct marketing minds in the weight loss and diet pill industry. It’s also a tactic used by online scammers to pedal bogus products that often have hidden recurring fees.

Today,, an industry organization dedicated to “keeping people safe from bad online ads” whose members include AOL, Google, Facebook and Twitter, released a trend alert on weight loss scams to alert consumers to the problems with many ads in this category.

According to the report, members have rejected or removed over 2.5 million weight loss-related ads from their systems in the past 18 months

Yet, despite the report and stated increase in vigilance by members, it’s still fairly easy to find sketchy weight loss ads — even ads flagged as having been removed in the report itself — underscoring evolving tactics by scammers and perhaps the need for even stricter ad filters and review processes.

The “4 Foods to never eat” shown below was found quickly this morning even though a variation of it is shown in the report as an example of a misleading ad that had been taken down. (Spoiler alert: bananas are not one of the foods you shouldn’t be eating.) The ad here was served through Google.

weight loss ads

In the report consumers are warned about ads with pitches like “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days”. Yet, here is a similar ad on a Google search for “diet pills” found earlier today from promising “Lose 10 Pounds In 7 Days Guaranteed”.

weight loss ads

A search on Yahoo, which has its search ads served through Microsoft’s Bing Ads platform (not a member), for “diet pills” yielded three consecutive ads from TrustedWeightLossPills3(4 and 5).com that skirt trademark violations by using a “0″ instead of an “O” in “0z”. To top it off, the ads lead with “Avoid Scammer”.

weight loss ads yahoo

Fighting bad ads is an uphill battle that will likely never be entirely won. Per the report, “sophisticated scammers are always attempting to circumvent companies’ automated filters and sometimes a small number of these ads do end up on the web. The issue – as a whole – is incredibly nuanced and scammers frequently find new ways to avoid detection by companies and law enforcement, as well as working around the FTC guidelines. This makes it extremely difficult for online advertising platforms to identify scam ads among the billions of legitimate ads served every year.”

And yes, Google, in particular, has a huge number of ads passing through its automated systems every day which makes detection tougher. Still, it’s hard to reconcile the message that bad ads are being fought to the best of their ability when it’s so easy to spot examples on the day this kind of report is released.

Asked for comment after providing screenshots of the first two examples above, a Google spokesperson said, “We are supportive of efforts to raise awareness of these types of scams, many of which come from very sophisticated scammers. We have systems in place to detect these sorts of bad actors, and if we find an ad that violates our policies we’ll take the appropriate actions as quickly as possible.”

It should also be noted that it can be tougher to seek out these kinds of ads on Facebook and Twitter due to the ad targeting methods used on those platforms. However, no sketchy weight loss ads were spotted on either platform via keyword searches or other audience targeting or retargeting methods.

There are valid questions about whether Facebook and Twitter are doing more to keep spam out, if scammers are able to sneak through Google and Bing Ads more easily because their ad systems are more nuanced, or if it’s a volume thing in which we really are just seeing a tiny sliver of all that Google and Bing Ads have managed to block. What we do know is bad actors will go wherever money is.

This is the second report issued by the group; the first was on tech support scams, which has its fare share of bad actors.

Related Topics: AOL | Channel: Industry | Facebook: Advertising | Google | Google: AdWords | Internet Marketing Industry | Top News | Twitter: Advertising


About The Author: writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting. Beyond Search Engine Land, Ginny provides search marketing and demand generation advice for ecommerce companies. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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  • Tomasz Frontczak

    It seems Facebook also hitted legitimated business which has CRO design similar to mentioned scams. It is hard (actully imposible) to explain to Facebook representative difference between stolen logo of news media and real recomendation. For one of our clients we are blocked on Facebook and no one is ready to help us.

  • dan trainer

    Great read. Great fat loss technique. Thanks for sharing. Anyway, just wanna share, research shows that a professionally customized natural fat loss exercise program for your body type burns 3x more fat than generic programs and is twice as enjoyable. It patronizes eating the proper food to have good metabolism for faster fat loss which shows best result.

  • Debra Harris

    Its a great news! nice article,Thanks for sharing this page with us.

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