Magic Diet Product Scams Invade Freecycle And Meetup Groups

Beware! Affiliate spammers have infiltrated innocent online groups, looking to take advantage of the people who haven’t yet heard that “free” trials of magic diet foods are a scam.

I recently joined a group for local knitters because my actual friends stubbornly refuse to take up knitting. This afternoon, the following message came through:

Hey, I saw that we were in the same group. I just wanted to ask you to check out my diet blog and tell me what you think of it. It’s my story of how I lost 40+ pounds after having 3 kids! My link is if you have any questions feel free to message me back, Thanks!

Hey, funny how “Marcia” lives in San Diego when this group is based in New York. And how her blog looks like dozens of other acai scam blogs I’ve seen.

Edit: Meetup acknowledge and explained the problem this afternoon. Good for them!

Unfortunately, Meetup groups aren’t the only venue for spam. Messages similar to this one have started appearing on Freecycle lists across the country:

SUBJECT: [OFFER] My Leftover Colon Cleanse Product SEALED – Downtown

I got the results i wanted from using this, and I have some
left over which I don’t really need it anymore. (It’s for
losing weight if you didn’t know already)

Some moderators see what’s up and let it through; others don’t. You can guess how this works—anyone who e-mails asking for the free product gets a link to a site where they can get their very! own! free! trial! Similar scams are run with spammers purportedly giving away video game consoles, computers, and iPods. The poster claims that the item is gone, but if you just click here and fill out some offers, you can get your very own Dell laptop or Wii, for free!

Careful, Those Free Acai Products Might Come Attached To A Delicious Scam
Should You Detox Your Colon?
Easy Weight Loss And Free Cash: A Dubious Product Online Marketing Empire Revealed

(Photo: George Arriola)


Edit Your Comment

  1. BuddhaLite says:

    Meetup has actually already resolved this problem and you can find the information here:


  2. XTC46 says:

    These kinds of methods are some of the biggest money makers, becasue by being part of the group (if if you joined 30 seconds before you posted the ad) you are automatically trusted more.

  3. 2DaysTillTheState_GitEmSteveDave says:

    Laura, this is Consumerist. I think you need to get rid of the “R” in the name of the group you joined, and move the “N”. Because we all know you were looking for local Kittens!

  4. sprocket79 says:

    I got that message via Meetup too.

  5. Skaperen says:

    The article mentions they blocked a domain name of throw-away email accounts. Anyone know what domain name that is so I can add it to some other blocking databases?

    • Javin says:

      @Skaperen: When I wrote a piece of software to determine where our glut of Spam was coming from (we were recieving 50,000 per day at a very small company. Roughly 500 per day per user) I found something very interesting. Roughly 90% of them were coming from the APNIC networks. Once I banned all of China from my servers, we plummited from 500 per user per day, to 50. Those were cleaned up by banning the offending IPs systematically (mostly LATNIC and RIPE networks) and within a month, we had absolutely NO Spam coming in. I haven’t worked for that company for 2 years now, but they still use the filter system I put in place.

      • AstroPig7 says:

        @Javin: I did something similar at my last company, except our sources were Russia, Brazil, and China. It’s amazing what can be ignored when you don’t participate in international business.

    • GeekyRobotGirl says:

      @Skaperen: I received one of the spam messages yesterday. Here is the email address mine came from:

  6. satoru says:

    Unfortunately you can’t account for the sheer stupidity of some people. Even ‘educated’ wealthy people are not exempt, as entire aisles of homeopathic medicines and over price exotic fruit juices at every single Whole Foods will attest to.

    • TheStateOnDVD2Day_GitEmSteveDave says:

      @satoru: So wait, you’re saying that diluting a ingredient 30x in water DOESN’T retain it’s essence or energy therein?

      • pyramus says:

        @HoneybunsCandy_GitEmSteveDave: It’s not diluted 30 times. It’s diluted 1-to-10 or 1-to-100, and then THAT solution is diluted again to the same proportion, and then this process is repeated until it’s been done thirty times. (The 1-to-10 dilution is a 30X: the 1-to-100 is a 30C.) When it’s all over, the probability that there’s even a single molecule of the original substance left is as close to zero as you’d care to calculate.

        Since nearly all of the water on Earth has been around for billions of years and is constantly moving around, you’d figure that every possible substance has been repeatedly and infinitely diluted into it, and so by the principles of homeopathy a glass of water from your tap would cure all illnesses. Strangely, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  7. juniper says:

    Something like this has shown up recently in LinkedIn, too. I’ve gotten more than a few spammy “invitations” to view websites etc from people who randomly join Groups I’m a member of on LinkedIn, and then send messages to all members.

    There’s no “report this message as spam” button in LinkedIn.

  8. Anonymous says:

    As an organizer of Maryland Japanese + English Language Club, I saw this hit two of my sister Japanese meetups in DC. The problem was that both meetups were open to anyone (including Marcia) to join. My group requires a request to join which can help to keep at least some spammers out.

    I’ve known that there is the potential for this to happen on and any other SNS for that matter.

  9. theblackdog says:

    This happened on my FreeCycle group a few months ago, someone joined and then spammed the group later with a link to one of those “I got a free (product) here’s how you can get one too!” sites.

    I think the admin broke the sound barrier with how fast she swung the banhammer.

  10. Starfury says:

    I’d never heard of the meetup site but I’ll have to sign up. Might be a good way to meet local boardgamers.

  11. rhys1882 says:

    Where are the “free money” posts? Sign me up for that!

  12. iknowrebekah says:

    That picture was taken in Rainbow food co-op! I LOVE that place!

  13. wagnerism says:

    Weird coincidence. I just found meetup for the first time yesterday.

    I’m going mountain biking tomorrow and hopefully found some other people that camp.

  14. trujunglist says:

    Got the same message. Thing is, I live in San Diego. Thing also is, I’m not stupid enough to not immediately realize it’s spam.