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Fake celebrity endorsements: A cautionary tale

An endorsement from the right celebrity can make any product seem tempting. With the right celebrity spokesperson, companies can expect to receive a boost of publicity and glamour. Consumers who buy a product because of a high-profile endorsement frequently do so because they want to emulate the celebrity, or because they implicitly trust his or her judgment.

But what if you purchased a product only to realize that the celebrity endorsement was totally fake?

That is what happened to retiree Jean Strapenieks, who purchased a face cream online after being tricked by a pop-up ad featuring the HGTV reality star Joanna Gaines. Strapenieks was on her computer when she noticed an advertisement for Vlamorous Skin Cream, seemingly promoted by Gaines. “She has really good taste, and I trusted her endorsement," Strapenieks said. The ad featured a video of Gaines, a popular interior designer, saying that the skincare product was a free sample from a company that she endorsed.

Believing she would only pay shipping and handling charges, Strapenieks gave the company her credit card information, only to find that she had been automatically enrolled in an automatic shipment program and charged hundreds of dollars.

It turns out that Joanna Gaines had never endorsed the product after all. Gaines’s name and likeness had been used in a series of scams for the skincare products. Thirty-seven complaints had been filed against Vlamorous with the Federal Trade Commission. Gaines’s team has reportedly been able to halt several, but not all of, the scam advertisements.

In today’s internet age, online scams are more prevalent than ever, and both consumers and celebrities can be roped in. In order to protect against fake celebrity endorsements, consumers are encouraged to research a product before purchasing it, read the fine print, look for hidden fees, check their debit and credit card statements, and be careful when giving out their card details.

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