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12 Apr 2022

Beware fake adverts for keto diet pills

We found a messy trail of dodgy adverts making misleading claims all over the internet
Man taking pill with water

Adverts for keto diet pills falsely imply they're endorsed by Mumset, Dragons' Den and TV presenter Holly Willoughby to deceive shoppers, Which? reports.

Malicious investment and cryptocurrency adverts will often pretend to be backed by famous faces to lure you in, but promotions for health products such as diet pills are equally plagued by bogus endorsement.

We found a messy trail of dodgy adverts for keto diet pills making misleading claims all over the internet, posted via search engines, online news outlets and various social media platforms.

Fake celebrity endorsement

In October 2019, we reported that a rogue Facebook advertiser called [ketopurediet.com] had pretended to be backed by celebrity Anne Hegerty from ITV game show The Chase. Shoppers reported that the company took additional card payments without permission and then refused refunds. Shortly afterwards, the website disappeared entirely.

We've now found similar deceptive adverts appear all over the internet.

A Facebook page for @ketoburndxdragonsdenuk, created on 12 February 2022 and shown below, falsely claims to be connected to the BBC TV show 'Dragons' Den'. This page initially linked to a website called [store.ketoburndx.com] but has recently switched to promoting a website called [ketolife.fit].

Image of Facebook page for Keto Burn DX
Image of Facebook page for Keto Burn DX

BBC Studios told Which? 'there is no link between Dragons' Den and this advertiser'.

When we searched for other promotions for 'Keto Burn DX' we found multiple news outlets hosting promotions for similar products.

One example is an advert published at 09.05 on 21 February 2022 on The Jerusalem Post, entitled 'Holly Willoughby Keto UK (United Kingdom) - Is Keto Burn DX Boots Holly Willoughby Scam Or Legit?'.

advertorial selling keto diet pills
Advert selling keto diet pills

The content repeatedly invited readers to buy 'Holly Willoughby Keto' - yet the agent for Holly Willoughby told Which?: 'I can confirm that Holly has no connection to Keto Burn DX and has never endorsed diet pills or keto products of any kind.'

This promotion originally included links to [store.ketoburndx.com] but by 29 March 2022, the links had switched to a website for 'Keto Extreme' [discount2.ketoextremefatburner.com].

A separate Facebook page, for @ketoextremedragonsdenuk, falsely implies endorsement by both Dragons' Den and Holly Willoughby in its posts. It links to [supplement24hours.com] which in turn directs users to [discount2.ketoextremefatburner.com].

Facebook page
Facebook page for Keto Extreme Dragons Den

We shared our findings with Meta, the parent company of Facebook but didn't receive a response at the time of publication.

Who is behind these fake ads?

The advert hosted on The Jerusalem Post for 'Holly Willoughby Keto' was supplied by an agency called Reckonsoft Ltd. The Jerusalem Post told us it was 'against any kind of scam or phishing', and has 'blocked the customer in our systems'.

Reckonsoft Ltd also supplied a second advert about keto diet pills for The Jerusalem Post - published a minute later on the same day (09.06 on 21 February 2022). This advert was entitled 'Keto Burn DX UK Reviews (Scam Exposed 2022) - Fake Promises or Real Benefits for Customers?', and linked to [ketolife.fit].

Reckonsoft Ltd took down both articles once we reported them and said that it receives 'paid sponsored posts' from two forums that provide freelance services - one called fiverr.com and another called upwork.com - stating 'we don't know whether it's a celebrity name or brand. So, we publish as soon as we receive the project.'

Fiverr.com told Which?: 'If this was a service purchased over the Fiverr platform, it would violate our Terms of Service and Community Standards, as it includes false claims. After an internal investigation, we were unable to find any order from this brand asking for these advertorials to be created or posted. Of course, whenever we find that a buyer or seller has violated our Community Standards or Terms of Service, we take appropriate action.'

We didn't receive a response from upwork.com.

We also contacted [store.ketoburndx.com], [ketolife.fit], [supplement24hours.com], and [discount2.ketoextremefatburner.com] via the email addresses provided on their websites but received no response.

Find out more:Fake news in sponsored ads

Scammers attack from every angle

It's clear that the public is targeted at every turn - whether that's on social media pages inferring legitimate endorsement, multiple online news outlets hosting misleading adverts, or search engines giving ad space to promoters that facilitate these scams.

When we searched for 'Keto Burn DX UK' on Google we were shown three paid-for adverts that promoted [store.ketoburndx.com] in February 2022 (two of these adverts have since switched to promoting [discount2.ketoextremefatburner.com]).

Bing - the Microsoft search engine - was still giving ad space to [store.ketoburndx.com] on 29 March 2022, despite the website no longer being live. Once we reported this, a Microsoft spokesperson said it took 'appropriate action and removed all advertisements connected to that URL'

Keto Burn DX advert on Bing

Google didn't respond to our request for comment.

Scammers will use any platform to catch your attention, for example, we saw a Twitter post, shown below, which links to [healthyworldstock.com/keto-burn-dx-mumsnet-uk].

This webpage appears to promote a product it calls both 'Keto Burn DX NHS UK supplementu201d and 'Keto Burn DX Mumsnet UK product'. Mumsnet confirmed to us that it has no connection to Keto Burn DX and the NHS does not endorse diet pills.

We contacted [healthyworldstock.com] via the email provided on its website but this email bounced.

We also reported the Twitter account but it hasn't been removed because the tweets are currently not in violation of Twitter rules.

Twitter post about keto diet pills
Twitter post about keto diet pills

A spokesperson for the social media platform said: 'Protecting the health of the public conversation on Twitter is important to us, and we'll continue to enforce our policies when we identify violative content.'

Sneaky subscriptions

As well as making false claims about endorsement, we found some keto diet pill sites' information about their charges misleading.

A handful of people reported that [store.ketoburndx.com] has taken unauthorised payments on Trustpilot and who-called.co.uk.

Its website is no longer active but when it was live, shoppers had to enter their contact details before they could see any details about cost. We saved a copy of its highly confusing terms and conditions which made a vague reference to a continuous payment authority early on, it said:

  • 'By ordering Products from Us, You authorize Us to charge Your credit card accordingly. This authority shall remain in effect until and unless You have cancelled future orders of the Products as described in this Agreement, above.'

However, the same terms later imply that customers will only be charged once:

  • 'By placing an order with us you will be charged £119.49 + £0.00 S&H one time for 2 Bottles of Keto Burn DX'.

To make a return, its terms said customers must cover the cost of sending the items back to a fulfilment centre but failed to provide the address anywhere on its website. They also referred to charges appearing as 'KetoStrong Keto Burn DX +442033752966' - the same phone number is linked to 'Keto Extreme' using the website [discount2.ketoextremefatburner.com].

How to spot and avoid a fake ad or scam

While these ads can be really tempting, it's safest to avoid them.

If you've seen a product that you've found advertised on social media or a search engine, think carefully about the offer - we recommend that you:

  • Browse the website before buying - look for the terms and conditions and contact details, if this information isn't available then avoid this company.
  • Consider if the offer is too good to be true - scam websites use low prices to lure you in and quickly sell fake, counterfeit or non-existent items.
  • Look at the website's URL - a green padlock means the site is encrypted, while it's not a guarantee that it's a safe site, if there isn't a green padlock then that's a clear red flag.
  • Look the website up on whois.com to find out when it was registered - treat newly registered websites with extra caution.

If you're looking to buy products from an unknown website, make sure you understand the risks and learn to spot the signs of a scam and fake reviews.

Find out more:Online shopping - top tips to stay safe and shop smart