Ads for fake news websites are everywhere these days. You’ve no doubt seen the ads on either Facebook, an actual NEWS website, or just about any other popular site out there. The ads go something like this:
“Local stay at home mom discovers secret to weight loss/white teeth/working from home/curing cancer/time travel! It’s the secret THEY don’t want you know about! Access the secret for free!”
They’re all the same. It’s an article from a news website about a local mom that discovered a “trick” to one of the world’s biggest problems and decided to sell that information to you for cheap. There are two problems here however. First, that’s not a real news company and second, the only real trick, remains hidden within the billing practices of the company.
These fake news websites exist to try and get you into a “free trial” offer that has an absolute to of monthly fees attached to it. These are called negative option offers and they could cost you hundreds of dollars if you’re not careful.
I’ve put together a list of common elements that appear on nearly every fake news website. Keep an eye out for these. This list could save you hundreds of dollars.
Signs You’re Not at a Real News Site
The Advertisement Label
The biggest giveaway is the ‘Advertisement’ that most fake news sites have at the top of the page. Here’s a sample from a real, live fake news website. This site had the courtesy to both label it as an advertisement and say they have no affiliate with any news publication. Most of the time, you aren’t so lucky. And yes, I do see the “as seen on” icons also.
Another giveaway is the absurd amount of fine print at the bottom of a site. Here’s a screenshot of the footer from the same site.
Again, real news sites don’t need three ridiculously long paragraphs explaining how most of what they’re selling probably won’t work but they’re going to charge you a lot of money anyway. This screenshot also has the added bonus of my next point.
Closed Comment Sections
Comments sections on fake news websites are almost always closed. The owner of the site has the comments closed “due to spam,” but not before dozens of people were able to chime in and let the author know that the product whitened their teeth/helped them lose weight/made them millions.
The Only Links are to Order Pages
Real news websites have hundreds of links on a page. They link to other articles, sections, headlines, stories, etc. On fake news websites there’s only one link: the link to the order page. When is the last time you read a news article and the sole purpose of the article was to get you to buy something immediately?
It’s From a Company You’ve Never Heard Of
The most common technique employed by scammers is to take the name of a major city and add a word like Tribune, Times, or Post to the end of it. The end result is a convincing sounding name the LA Tribune or the Philadelphia Times.
Scammers are also using geolocation to determine where you are in the world and then inserting YOUR home town or city into the name of the website. This makes it appear as if it’s a local news source. If the name alone makes you do a double-take, head on out.
Here’s one final example of a site that is using my geolocation to deceive. I do live in Pittsburgh and the site is taking my location and using it to try and trick me into thinking this is a local paper. If you were to visit this site, you’d your own city and state on the page.
The Bottom Line
We tend to trust news outfits more. Scammers know this. They’re also exploiting this. Always be caution of a news article that’s trying to sell you something. Real news websites don’t put you in high-pressure “too good to be true” sales situations just to make a few bucks.
The FTC has started to crack down on these style websites, but it’s ultimately up to you to protect yourself. Question what you read and always do your research.