If you’ve never heard of the National Report website, consider yourself lucky. This fake news site is (or was) perhaps the most prominent example of its terrible type: among National Report‘s most widespread hoaxes were claims that notorious street artist Banksy was arrested and unmasked, that a teen was imprisoned over a “swatting prank,” and that a U.S. company was hiring mercenaries to kill ISIS militants. While most of the site’s efforts have been relatively benign, their fake story about an Ebola outbreak’s prompting a quarantine in Purdon, Texas, caused headaches for local officials at the height of coverage and anxiety about the virus. The National Report has now morphed into the News Examiner and is peddling the same hoaxes.
Some of the Worst Fake News Scammers
The nefarious World News Daily Report has published several viral claims often preying upon readers’ religious beliefs, including hoaxes about a newly-discovered eyewitness account of Jesus’ miracles, an ancient rumor about chariot wheels found at the bottom of the Red Sea, and a very old yarn about the discovery of giant skeletons reworked as the tale of a coverup perpetrated by the Smithsonian Institution. Recently, NPR tracked down one of the illusive owners of these fake news sites; he was profitable and unapologetic.
The vast majority of fake news sites exist in order to earn money from display ads placed on article pages. If the hoaxes drive traffic to the site, they make money. However, as nasty as these lying websites are, they aren’t as bad as a newer and more malicious set of websites: news sites peddling scams. As bad as so many of us think the “mainstream media” might be, they don’t hold a candle to these scammers who use celebrity images to make up false stories about so many of the potions, lotions and sales promotions that we’ve identified as full out scams.
Fake Celebrity Endorsements
Their SOP (standard operating procedure) is to make the sites look like mainstream media sites. For example, garcinia cambogia is being peddled by a site using Melissa McCarthy’s and made to look like CNN and one fashioned to be a TMZ site using a picture of Gwen Stefani.
Of course, both of these are fakes — the celebrities have disavowed any connection to the sites or even garcinia cambogia. Or the fake news sites may look like local TV stations, but they aren’t! Consumer activist Edgar Dworsky found one site that looks like Entertainment Tonight, but it is actually selling bogus wrinkle cream. Craig Silverman found scammers who create multiple copies of the same hoax article about a terrorist attack killing multiple people in a city. Each article is then edited to cite a different city, with the rest of the text and headline left exactly the same.
How Social Media Is Used to Trick You
The hoaxers publish the articles on one or several websites and then join Facebook groups focused on the locations cited in the hoaxes. Once accepted into the group, they share the link with all the members. This ensures a hoax about, say, Chicago is seen by people who live there. Those people click on and/or share the link with others in the area, thus driving traffic to the websites hosting the hoax.
To avoid these sites, be skeptical if the page is promoting a miracle product (like health cures or how to run your car on water) or an easy-money scheme. Remember that in real life these rarely, if ever, exist. It doesn’t hurt to do a search on the name of the TV station or publication.
If it’s a scam, you’ll generally find that there are no other pages or news reports from the same supposed newspaper or TV station. Some of the more notorious programs include Google Money Tree, Easy Google Profits, and Internet Wealth Builder. These fake news sites all follow the same basic template in which the site poses itself as a local online paper running a feature story on a successful work at home Mom or Dad. The website owners use an IP tracking tool to make sure that the papers all have your local town in the heading. So for instance if you live in Fresno, CA when you visit the site the heading would read “Fresno Times” and accordingly for anyone else who visits those sites.
Fake News Websites
Most all of these schemes lure you in with offers to sign up for just the cost of shipping and handling but in reality that is just a short trial period after which they use your billing info to charge you a large monthly fee. The only place that this is revealed is deep in their terms and conditions pages which are linked to at the very bottom of these websites. The news article is completely fabricated and the entire story of the man who “quit his boring day job and is now raking in a fortune online” is again only created to get you to buy their product. Fake News Watch has compiled a list of some of the fake news sites that you need to avoid: know Fake/Hoax News Websites:
- Cap News (twitter.com/capnews)
- Indecision Forever (www.cc.com/indecision)
- LMR (LibertyMovementRadio.com)
Some other fake sites that we’ve found include: