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Better Business Bureau warns of social networking ad scams

April 2, 2009 |  4:35 pm

Old scams never die, they just move on to new venues.

The Better Business Bureau put out an alert today that many of the dubious ads that have long popped up in e-mails and on websites are now invading online social networks, such as Facebook.

“Ubiquitous ads for weight loss products, work-at-home opportunities and offers for ‘free’ computers can cost shoppers more than they bargained for in the long run," the BBB said.

Last month the Federal Trade Commission charged that phony offers for individual grants from the federal government stimulus package were cropping up on Facebook. The social network agreed to seek them out and kick them off the service.

The ads the BBB warned about are going strong, however.

They include acai berry weight loss ads that lead consumers to websites with fake blog testimonials and offers that can cost more than $80 a month if not canceled before the trial period ends.

An ad that is headlined, “Learn how I make $67,000 a year being a stay-at-home Mom!” can also lead to hefty payouts. “In 2008 alone, BBB received more than 3,500 complaints from people who signed up for offers to learn how to work from home but were ultimately disappointed,” the organization said.

As for the “free” computer, the BBB pointed out it can cost $1,000 or more because a purchase, or many purchases, could be required before “free” happens.

“Of course, not all ads on social networking sites are misleading,” BBB spokesman Steve Cox said. “The point, though, is that it’s important that people always read the fine print carefully before giving their credit card information online.”

-- David Colker