Popular ideas investment show Shark Tank warns of phony products and companies: Internet Scambusters #1,074
Popular entrepreneurial investment show Shark Tank has provided lift-off for scores of clever business ideas and products.
But it's also prompted some crooks to fraudulently link their product ads to the show and its celebrity investors.
We'll explain how the scams work and what you can do about them in this week's issue
Let's get started…
Is That Shark Tank Product Ad A Fake?
Popular TV show Shark Tank is being widely used by scammers falsely claiming their products have been featured or even recommended in the entrepreneurial reality series.
So much so that the show's makers and some of its investors have been forced to issue a warning against the fraudsters.
If you watch the show, you'll know the format: would-be entrepreneurs present their ideas to a panel of experts and investors - the "sharks" - who can decide whether to back the ventures.
One of them, billionaire Mark Cuban, says many individuals and companies are lying, claiming their product has been backed by one or more of the sharks.
Ads, often posted on social media sites not only claim their product has been endorsed by one of the investors, but also use photos of the individual and logos from the show and TV news broadcasters. In some cases, they even use "doctored" deep fake photos and videos in which investors appear to back their products.
In other cases, scam companies try to pass themselves off as genuine firms that have won Shark Tank backing.
The panel of investors have even produced a video in which they warn viewers to be extra cautious.
"There are businesses that are advertising online claiming to be Shark Tank companies, but they never appeared on the show," says Cuban. Diet pills are among the most common source of scams that fraudulently use the Shark Tank label.
In another alarming incident, Shark Tank personality Kevin O'Leary had his Twitter account hacked and then used to promote a cryptocurrency giveaway scam. The tweet used O'Leary's photo alongside a supposed promo for 5,000 free Bitcoin and 15,000 Ethereum currencies.
His highly respected profile on the TV show was enough to trick some victims into giving away details of their digital wallets in which their investments were stored - and subsequently stolen.
Furthermore, scammers sometimes actually appear on the show to make false promises or exaggerate their product's potential, or they present fake financial numbers to make it seem like a mouthwatering investment opportunity.
In other cases, a supposed product seeking backing doesn't even exist! Or the underlying idea might have been stolen or copied from someone else. Phony entrepreneurs have even been known to use false celebrity endorsements.
The Shark Tank program producers are well experienced at filtering out the entrepreneurial con-merchants but there's little they can do to stop businesses from claiming they have the show's backing.
"Unfortunately, with every new episode comes the opportunity for imposters to use false information to exploit the unwary," the team warns.
ABC News, the broadcaster behind the series, recently featured an interview with "shark" and cybersecurity expert Robert Herjavec. He blamed the rise in the number of people working from home for the surge in buying promoted products and falling for scams.
An additional risk that buyers face is the possibility of fraud and identity theft. If you buy a scam product, there's a high possibility that the crooks will then have access to your credit card details and other confidential financial information.
How To Spot and Avoid a Shark Tank Scam
The first thing to realize is that just because a product has been "featured" on Shark Tank doesn't mean it won an investment. As we said earlier, some dubious entrepreneurs may have appeared on the show with scam products or simply unsuccessful ideas.
In theory, they can legitimately claim their product was "featured" on the show and leave viewers to mistakenly conclude that it must be good.
So, take the word "featured" with a pinch of salt, and do your research.
Second, check that the company was actually on the show and whether it won backing or not. This is easy to do by visiting the show's website, which contains a list of all the companies/products that have appeared on Shark Tank.
Beware, however, that the list is not frequently updated and, at the time of writing, it hadn't been added to in more than a year.
Finally, recall the old adage "If it's too good to be true, it probably is." Again, it's important to do your research to find out what others say about a company or product and what their ratings are with the Better Business Bureau.
Shark Tank has been a powerful and hugely successful platform for the launch of scores of businesses and products. But that very success is one more reason to avoid letting your scam guard down.
The Week's Alerts
Student loan forgiveness: The back-and-forth shenanigans about proposed student debt forgiveness culminated in a Supreme Court decision to block the program last month. Now, the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) has warned of scammers planning to cash in on confusion, claiming perhaps they can still secure loan forgiveness or delay repayments, which are due to resume in October. Crooks may ask for upfront payment or for confidential information they can use for ID theft. Visit FederalStudentAid for up-to-date information.
Military help: July is Military Consumer Month. Last year, service people lost more than $400 million to scammers. The US Federal Trade Commission is urging people with military family members to share their own anti-scam knowledge and awareness. You could share this newsletter for a start. Also, encourage them to sign up for the Military Consumer page on Facebook.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!