You've heard this before, but we'll say it again: You can't believe everything you read on the internet. Unfortunately, not everyone out there is trying to keep you informed of scams to protect you like we are.
One of the latest hoaxes making the rounds is a fake ad claiming to be from CNN Nutrition. But, if you look closely, there are some red flags that give it away.
The article states that a college student from Cornell University was able to lose 37 pounds within a month by sticking to a special diet of apple cider vinegar and a supplement called Garcinia. To make the story seem even more convincing, the student "Amanda Haughman" was interviewed and quoted.
"I had struggled with my weight my whole life," the article stated, and the quote went on to describe details of the diets Ms. Haughman tested. However, every word of the quote, as well as the article itself is a work of fiction. Amanda Haughman isn't real, and neither are the claims made by the article.
How the scam works
Although this phony post doesn't appear to be hiding anything malicious like malware, it is written in a way that's designed to trick consumers into buying a product. And a potentially harmful product at that.
According to health experts, taking Garcinia as a weight loss supplement can result in some serious side effects. In fact, back in 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about the product, explaining it can lead to significant liver problems.
This story just goes to show how easy it is for false claims to be made online, and although this particular hoax doesn't carry with it the same cyberthreats we typically warn you about, it easily could. Within the article itself, there are several links that could elicit an accidental click, which is why you need to learn the signs that will help you spot a fake.
The primary indicator here is the site's URL, or web address. Remember, the fake one is written as though the story was published by CNN. However, the two websites look very different. The image below shows the differences you can easily spot.
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As you can see, CNN's real website has a completely different layout and color scheme than the imposter site. When comparing them side-by-side, you can see that the fake site looks more like a personal blog than an actual news website.
However, even if the layout and design of the imposter site had been spot on, there is still one major thing that gives it away. The URL.
CNN.com belongs (of course) to CNN and no one else. That's why you'll notice the URL on the fake site is "independant-research.com." Another thing to point out here is that "independant" is spelled incorrectly.
Similar scams to watch out for
Fortunately, the worst thing this hoax appears to be doing is selling you a bad product. But it could be worse. Much worse. The truth is scammers often use ploys such as this to trick you into clicking on something you shouldn't.
What's hiding behind those links? Well, the easiest answer is that it could be anything. Spyware, adware, ransomware, keyloggers - you name it - could be installed on your device when you click the link. Or, the links could lead you to additional fake sites as part of a phishing scam designed to collect your name, email address, date of birth, and even your social security number. No matter what, the outcome isn't good. Click here to see how these scams work, as well as a list of more cyberthreats you should be concerned over.
Rule of thumb: Any time you see a headline that sounds too good to be true, or deliberately evokes an emotion such as anger, sadness, hope or frustration, think twice before you click. Headlines such as this don't always mean that the article is a fake, but it's a good indicator. Here are five questions to ask yourself before clicking any link.