Spammers Used Hacked Email Accounts To Push Bogus Weight-Loss Products

Image courtesy of Pamela Greer

Word-of-mouth is a great way to promote a weight-loss product, as you’re more likely to trust a passed-along recommendation from a friend than some ad you see on the internet. That’s why the operators of an alleged spam scam hijacked hacked email accounts to spread the word about a slew of unproven weight-loss products.

The Federal Trade Commission announced today that it had charged Tachht, Inc. and Teqqi, LLC — along with owners Colby Fox and Christopher Reinhold — with inundating consumers with illegal spam emails in an attempt to sell them bogus weight-loss products using false celebrity endorsements.

According to the FTC’s complaint [PDF], since 2014 the marketing operation paid for emails to be sent to consumers from hacked email accounts, making it appear to consumers that the messages came from their family members, friends, or other contacts.

The messages themselves were often rather short — “Hi! CNN says this is one of the best” or some similar nonsense — with a link to one of several websites promoting the defendants’ unproven weight-loss products, like Original Pure Forskolin, Mango Boost Cleanse, and Original White Kidney Bean.

The websites are designed to look like news reports about one of the weight-loss products, often using logos, photos, and names from Oprah Winfrey or the television show “The Doctors.”

Claims on the site include promised weight loss of “4 lbs/week of belly fat” and “41.7lbs in 2.5 months.” According to the FTC, these claims are false and lack scientific support.

Once a user clicks on the links highlighted in the fake news reports, they are taken to the company’s website and sold the weight-loss product.

The FTC claims that the marketers were able to push out thousands of spam emails by using affiliate marketers, who received a commission whenever consumers click-through from a fake news website to one of their own sites and purchased the supplements.

The complaint charges that Tachht and Teqqi, and the owners, violated the FTC Act and the CAN-SPAM Act, which sets standards for the sending of commercial email.