Tiny Belly, Huge Scam: Banner Ads Accused of $1 Billion Hustle

Like all lard-ass Americans, I dream of being in better shape. Those ubiquitous "Tricks of a Tiny Belly" banner ads gave me hope. 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. The feds claim the companies involved in the scam took in $1 billion or more. Some of the ads include a helpful disclaimer: "This website, and any page on the website, is based loosely off a true story, but has been modified in multiple ways including, but not limited to: the story, the photos, and the comments. Thus, this page, and any page on this website, are not to be taken literally or as a non-fiction story." That sounds a tad suspicious. Still, I'll take my chances with the miracle tummy-tightening berries. Anything beats giving up my three-cannoli lunches or going to the gym.