Bogus skin cream and health supplement ads are all over the Internet. The products are supposedly endorsed by celebrities apparently to lure unwitting consumers into long-term contracts.
Famous faces like Sandra Bullock, Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, The Rock, Christie Brinkley, and Shark Tank panelist and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban are splashed across the ads. However, none of these celebrities have endorsed the products or are involved with the ads in any way.
The ads link to a sales pitch for a “free sample” — just pay $4.95 for shipping and handling. But many consumers don’t realize they’re signing up for a monthly $90 subscription, which is only spelled out deep in the fine print of the sales terms.
But celebrities, including Cuban, have told Inside Edition the ads using their names and likenesses are nearly impossible to eliminate.
“It drives me nuts,” Cuban said. “We’ve tried everything to shut them down.”
If you believe one ad, Cuban and the entire cast of Shark Tank invested in a supplement called Alpha Monster Advanced Muscle Builder.
The ad quotes Cuban as saying, "Alpha Monster Advanced Muscle Builder is revolutionizing muscle-building medicine,” but he told Inside Edition: “I never said that.”
In fact, Cuban said he’s only heard of the product because of his attempts to get the websites to stop duping consumers.
But despite his attempts, thousands of customers say they are still being duped, according to numbers from the Better Business Bureau.
“We have over 4,000 complaints in the past 36 months,” said Bryan Oglesby of the Clearwater, Fla., Better Business Bureau office.
One reason the ads are so believable is they appear to be ripped from the headlines.
When NCIS star Pauley Perrette announced this would be her last season on the show, an ad appeared: "Pauley Perrette Is Leaving NCIS To Pursue Skin Care Line.” While she is leaving the show, it's not to pursue a skin care line.
“People are getting scammed, they actually are, and no one can catch these people,” she told Inside Edition.
Another skin cream ad featuring Fixer-Upper star Joanna Gaines said in a headline: “Joanna Gaines Quits Show Fixer Upper and Shocks Audience by Announcing Her New Skin Care Product.”
That's partly true. She and her husband Chip are departing after the show's fifth season, but the fact that it's to focus on a skin cream line is completely false.
“We are aware of the ongoing scam linking Joanna to a line of skincare products,” Gaines’ representative wrote in an email to Inside Edition. “We have been working to identify as many of the skincare scam sites as possible and we have been able to shut down several already, but we’d love everyone’s help in spreading the word that this is a scam and to not click or engage with any of these ads.”
Inside Edition tracked some of the products to two companies, Private Label Sk.in (sic), and Hashtag Fulfillment, both based near St. Petersburg, Fla. The companies manufacture many of the products and fulfill the orders, meaning they process the shipping and returns.
But the CEO of the companies, Eric Pogue, told Inside Edition’s Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero they do not sell products directly to the consumer and are not behind the websites utilizing fake celebrity endorsements.
“We provide manufacturing services and fulfillment services and we're not interested at all in celebrities that have products that are not their own,” he told Guerrero.
When she asked him if they were ripping off customers, he replied, “No ma'am we're not."
“Sir, can you at least admit you know about these problems?” Guerrero pressed.
“Sir, why don't you talk to us if you're not doing anything wrong?” she asked as he got in his car and drove away.
Mark Cuban said Pogue’s explanation isn’t good enough.
“He can't hide behind saying he just does the fulfillment," Cuban told Inside Edition. "He's profiting off it and he's complicit.”
Pogue later sent Inside Edition a statement stressing his companies are not the seller or advertiser and they only manufacture and distribute the products on behalf of other companies. However, when pressed, they would not reveal the names of the companies using fake celebrity endorsements or how much they make from fulfilling those orders.
“Private Label Skin and Hashtag Fulfillment manufactures, packages and ships products for many different companies," Pogue said in the statement. "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."