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French Reporter’s Image Used In $1 Billion ‘Flat Belly’ Ad Scheme

By now, it’s fair to assume we’ve all seen those ads claiming that a local mom found the secret to tooth whitening – dentists hate her! Or that ubiquitous ad heralding one “weird tip” to achieve a flat belly. You were probably curious — if not to find out what this tip is, then about who would be behind these ads — but likely (we hope) elected not to click them since, well. We know the internet.

Now, Adweek‘s David Gianastasio is confirming what many of us have long suspected to be true: Those ads? Total scams. He explains how they worked:

If it’s on the Internet, it must be for real! Enter the buzzkill FTC, which has filed no fewer than 10 lawsuits alleging that those ads are scams designed to get your credit-card info and make your plastic go spastic purchasing stuff you never intended to buy. The commission claims that folks who clicked on the ads were led to “phony” news stories about the slimming wonders of acai berries, colon cleansers and such. Most featured a journalist identified as “Julie Miller.” In fact, photos of an actual French journalist, Melissa Theuriau, were used without her permission.

In fact, Theuriau’s picture is the first result when you run a Google image search for the term “news reporter.” Chances are, her face is familiar, even if you’ve never watched a second of French news programming:

According to the federal government, the companies running these ads were able to rake in at least $1 billion. So, it appears your mom’s warning is true: If it seems too good to be true, it probably it is. And, unfortunately, it still takes physical activity, a sensible diet and genetics to maintain a flat belly. Sorry, kiddos.

h/t Adweek

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