Deceptive ads disguised as celebrity news lure and hook consumers around the country.
Theresa Sonberg signed up for a trial of the KA eye serum after reading that Flip or Flop star Christina El Moussa uses it.
Sonberg learned the online story was fake only after the skin care outfit hit her credit card for $500.
More fake news stories claimed actress Pauley Perrett quit the hit show NCIS to focus on her skin care line.
Connie Johnson fell for a made up article about Shark Tank stars promoting Hydralie skin care. The $5 trial cost Hal Johnson and his wife over $500.
We found more than 500 skin care products tied to 4,000 complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau in the last 3 years.
The products all have different names but they all ship from one warehouse. Hashtag Fulfillment in St. Petersburg.
The return address on many skin creams tied to dozens of post office boxes. The Better Business Bureau says they're all owned by Hashtag Fulfillment.
I went to the company seeking answers. No one would answer our questions on camera.
CEO Eric Pogue told us in an email:
"Private Label Skin and Hashtag Fulfillment manufactures, packages and ships products for many different companies. We also handle product returns.
We do not sell products directly to consumers. The companies who hire us to manufacture and/or fulfill their products do that. Those companies also do their own advertising and marketing, as well as the product sales and collections of funds
When consumers do have a complaint about one of the brands, they may reach out to us, as we handle returns, even though their complaint is with the company that they purchased the product from. Once we become aware, we assist the consumer by putting them directly in touch with the companies to resolve their issues.
The Better Business Bureau has mistakenly applied many of these consumer complaints to us, instead of the actual retailers that sold them the products. We have attempted to work with the BBB and sent them a lengthy and detailed document nearly a year ago explaining how we could join forces with them to better resolve any complaints consumers have with the retailers. For some reason, the BBB decided to continue to blame Hashtag Fulfillment for complaints that consumers have against other businesses
This makes no sense to us since we do not take any retail orders, process retail consumer payments, operate customer service departments for retail consumers, operate or design retail websites, or assist any wholesale buyers develop retail sales programs. These areas are solely maintained by the brands themselves.
Although we ship out thousands of packages every day on behalf of different retailers, there are actually only nine current complaints against Hashtag Fulfillment noted in the BBB website. In each instance, we have responded, correcting the consumer’s misconception
We are a good, local employer – committed to ethical business practices and treating people right. We are sympathetic to anyone who feels taken advantage of while purchasing goods through online media and are working to strengthen regulations that protect consumers. We are fully committed to consumer trust and confidence in any purchases made though anyone of our customers."
The Attorney General's Office is also investigating after receiving more than 120 similar complaints this year alone.
The skin care companies respond to credit card disputes with copies of terms and conditions that say the trial triggers an auto bill enroll program. Many say they never saw the fine print.
In some cases consumers get their money back after filing a dispute with their credit card or bank. Others are left to pay the debt.
Pauley Perrette just one of several celebrities is now speaking out about the fake ads to save fans from wasting any more of their money.