CBS’s The Early Show aired a segment last Friday about counterfeit holiday lights and extension cords, mostly from China and mostly available at dollar stores, that can cause fires. The problem is that the manufacturers use shoddy materials, and sometimes even fake UL stickers, to give the impression that they’re following safety guidelines. You find out they’re not when your tree goes up in flames.
Everyone likes to hate on spammers, but they’re basically the houseflies of the Internet. Far more insidious and damaging are astroturfers and front groups—those corporate-funded, agenda-pushing people who don’t disclose who they’re really working for while they participate in online culture and the media. The Center for Media and Democracy has put together a list of tips to help you identify them from real grassroots movements, while Free Press has created a widget that reveals front groups for five large companies you frequently see on Consumerist.
Becca Beushausen, a 26-year-old woman who went by “April’s Mom” online, scammed gullible readers out of money to help pay for a fake pregnancy. Then she accidentally screwed up her scam by posting a photo of the supposed baby last week. “‘It wasn’t a photo of a baby at all,’ said Elizabeth Russell, a mother and maker of lifelike Reborn Dolls, ‘It was a doll. I have that same doll.'”
If you see the word “langostino” in front of “lobster” at your local seafood fast food chain (*cough* Long John Silvers), make sure you understand what it is you’re about to eat. In the US, langostino can refer to squat lobster, pelagic crab or Colorado langostino—all types of shellfish, and more closely related to crabs and, yes, hermit crabs than to lobsters. “Sweet Buttery Hermit Handfuls” wouldn’t be any more accurate than “Buttered Langostino Lobster Bites,” but it wouldn’t be any less accurate, either. And no, LJS, it doesn’t count if you put the shellfish pieces in a cardboard lobster tail.
From what I’ve seen online, if I take it to a bank, they might take it, but of course I won’t be compensated. Should I turn it into the police? What should I do with it? I don’t really want to just pass it along.
We all know that Amazon’s review system is kind of a mess. It’s plagued by “professional reviewers,” reviews from friends, legitimately critical reviews that get yanked after complaints by angry fan groups, and—worst of all—fake reviews, usually written by employees of the manufacturer. Adam found a new fake reviewer named David Jacob, but what really caught our eye was how real Amazon shoppers have picked up on it and left a series of comments to warn future customers to stay away from Gamenamics.
We’ve seen some misleading advertising before, but this one is a doozy. A company called “Property Tax Reassessment” is sending homeowners in California a fake tax document that looks official, and that attempts to con recipients into paying $179 before February 26th so that the company can file some paperwork on their behalf. There’s even a late fee threat for missing the deadline! It’s some of the most convincing looking junk mail we’ve ever seen, and it’s a total scam.
- We’re very sorry this happened;
- We don’t condone unethical behavior
- We’ll try to remove the fraudulent reviews;
- Our business partners had no role in this fiasco.
The one thing that’s missing? The fate of ethically-challenged dimwit Bayard (edit – and anyone at Belkin like him), who the Daily Background has since caught posting his own fraudulent reviews for Belkin.
We’ll admit, there’s a small part of us that’s impressed with the idea—save money on your wedding by renting a fake super fancy cake, and serve the guests a far cheaper sheet cake! But then we think about the bloated ecosphere of wedding planning, and how pointless it all is, and how nobody stays together anyway, and how “the perfect wedding” is all about vanity and wish fulfillment instead of expressing your love… and then we like this idea even more.
Last week, we wrote about a roofing company that had sent out a “Defective Roof Notice” to potential customers. The blogger who received the junk mail thought it was deceptive, and so did we. To make matters worse, he wrote a complaint to the company and was ignored—but a few weeks later a fake “customer review” appeared on his site that was traced back to Feazel. Now the owner of Feazel Roofing has responded and apologized for the junk mail:
Update: The owner of Feazel Roofing has responded and apologized for the misleading nature of the junk mail.
Blogger HolyJuan was annoyed with a piece of junk mail he received from Feazel Roofing, because it was written in such a way that it could (intentionally) mislead homeowners into thinking the roof inspection being offered was somehow official, required, or necessary. In fact, it was simply an attempt to drum up new business for the company—but when you lead off with “DEFECTIVE ROOF NOTICE” and then mention class action lawsuits in the first paragraph, it’s hard to claim marketing innocence. HolyJuan complained about the letter on his blog, and a few weeks later an anonymous “customer” posted a rebuttal full of praise for Feazel Roofing—from the IP address of the company, naturally.
If you live in the NYC area, one thing you probably won’t be spending your stimulus check on now is a pair of shiny new fake Nikes—or ersatz Louis Vuittons, packs of imitation Duracell batteries, or faux-Timberland boots.
If you find you’re on a cruise to, say, the Caribbean, and you decide to buy something expensive—like, say, an emerald ring—then be sure to pay with a credit card, take photos of the item and the person who sold it to you, and get a receipt. It may sound like overkill, but if the “emeralds” in the ring fall out and it turns your finger black once you’re back on the boat and have left Antigua, chances are it’s not a cursed pirate ring but a fake, and you’ll be glad you have some documentation when you start trying to make things right.
Chinese officials charged the Zhang brothers with assembling 160,000 fake Gillette Mach 3 razor blades in their home with the help of other family members (and, we imagine, lots of boxes of Band-Aids). The home was raided over a year ago, but apparently the charges have just been officially announced. Unless, of course, this very announcement is a forgery—or tainted with lead!
Officials might consider counterfeit Chinese “translations” of copyrighted work illegal, but we like to think of them as the marketplace’s version of outsider art; it’s like fanfic and Lulu.com got together and opened up a bookstore in Shanghai. The New York Times teases its readers with awesome excerpts from a handful of recent Harry Potter knockoffs, with titles far better than the real ones:
Harry Potter and the Chinese Porcelain Doll
Harry Potter and the Leopard-Walk-Up-to-Dragon
Harry Potter and the Chinese Overseas Students at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Today, Coach dropped a trademark infringement suit alleging Target sold counterfeit versions of a popular purse, the Python Signature Striped Demi.