Friday, June 16, 2017

Face Cream Fiasco and Fake Celebrity Endorsements: Is Joanna Gaines really going into the cosmetics business?

Since April, a story has been circulating that Joanna Gaines of the HGTV hit show Fixer Upper is quitting the show and leaving her husband to go into the cosmetics business. On April 17th, she wrote a blog post titled Don’t Believe Everything You Read.
“Always remember: if you’re reading big, exciting news about us, and we did not confirm it on our official sites, then proceed with caution. We are so thankful for your support—we wouldn’t be here without you! And just in case you were wondering, YES! We are currently filming season 5 of the show. No! I am not getting into the business of facial creams. And No! We are not expecting baby #5. And no worries, believing some of these stories happens to the best of us. In summary, don’t buy the facial cream, friends.” Joanna Gaines
This facial cream business is, ironically, a disgusting example of fake news. The people who are selling the product have, apparently, been using Joanna Gaines’s image and reputation to hawk their own products. Think about that. You put your heart and soul into a business for years, or maybe decades, build a solid reputation and achieve a degree of success. Then someone comes along who takes a shortcut to success by building their own business on your reputation. To make matters worse, they rip people off in your name.
These sleazebags concocted the story about Mrs. Gaines' “new venture” and disseminated it on websites that look legitimate, until you scratch beneath the surface. New incarnations of the story are popping up on shiny new webpages with some frequency. Although they look very nice, they're excellent examples of how people are making big money with fake news.
Telltale signs that the pages are fake start with the logo at the top left corner. One page that I came across has a logo for Entertainment Today Insider News. That doesn’t match up at all with the domain name for the website. Also, a Google search for that name turned up nothing.
There’s a navigation bar at the top of the webpage with four items: Love, Celebs, Beauty, and Gift Ideas. The four links, along with a link from the logo, all lead to a page for requesting a trial order of the face cream.
The article headline says, “Joanna Gaines Calls Time On Fixer Upper and Shocks Fans by Announcing Her Resignation.” 
That’s followed by a horizontal section which says, “As seen in The New York Times, Today, and Redbook.” However, there’s no such story on the associated websites. On April 27th, 2017, Redbook and Today did publish articles about the fake news story.
Joanna Gaines is not the only celebrity being exploited this way. Check out this Snopes post about the way the face cream hucksters operate.
Herb Weisbaum of NBC also wrote a great article about this scheme in October, 2016. At that time, Joy Behar was the main target of the fake face cream scheme. The article cited is very similar to the more recent one about Joanna Gaines.
Two Common Signs of Fake News Websites
Many fake news websites, including the ones pushing the facial cream, have a few things in common. Frequently, there are no About Pages. Legitimate websites always have an About Page. Also, the name of the person who wrote the article is not included. Writers normally want their names on their work.  
Small print can lead to a big recurring bill.
I clicked through the ordering page to see if there was any fine print. The order placement page did indeed have some tiny gray print.
“YOU HAVE 14 DAYS AFTER ORDERING YOUR TRIAL TO CANCEL FOR ANY REASON BEFORE YOU ARE AUTOMATICALLY ENROLLED INTO OUR MONTHLY BEAUTY SUBSCRIPTION. WE'LL CHARGE YOUR CREDIT CARD $89.95/MONTH UNLESS YOU CALL TO CANCEL.”
People place their orders and the charge shows up on their credit card bills weeks later. By the time many become aware of what they’ve signed up for, some have been billed twice. $179.90, plus shipping, seems pricey for a trial order, especially when the large print presented it as free.
Why do schemes like this work so well?
The campaign to sell facial cream appears to be very well orchestrated. Although the story has been debunked, it is still being circulated and shared. It just keeps popping up. Here are three reasons why.
  1. There’s an enormous market for beauty products.
  2. Joanna Gaines has a huge following. Her fans really love her and they trust her.
  3. Whoever put the campaign together has great web design and communications skills, and knows how to push the right buttons to get people to react without thinking.
How can people protect themselves?
  • When a website has no About Page or an article or blog post has no named author, move on.
  • Click on some of the links. If they all lead to a page for ordering something, proceed with great caution.  
  • Read the small print before placing an order. Neglect to do that, and you could be out hundreds of dollars that you will never get back.
If it seems too good to be true, like getting a free jar of a miraculous new face cream which has been endorsed by your favorite celebrity, it's probably fake news designed to defraud people of their money. Think twice before you click.
Don’t be fooled. Read Fake News 101: How to Recognize Fake News and Avoid Being Fooled By It. Now available on Kindle and in paperback at Amazon.com.

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