Don’t be tricked by this fake ‘BBC’ website. Miracle diet spammers post fake news stories

Spam on Instagram Have you received a message in the last few days from one of your friends, telling you that they have decided to take up a miracle diet after seeing it talked about on the Dr Oz TV show?

If so, you’re not alone. The messages have been seen far and wide, including on social networking accounts at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr.

Following the wave of diet spam which caught the attention of security researchers on Twitter late last week, the attack appears to have most recently expanded to include Instagram where, as GigaOM reports, various fruity snapshots appeared and users were advised to reset their passwords.

Whether the social networking accounts which began to spew out the spam had been sloppy with their password security, or whether there was another reason for the accounts being compromised, is currently unclear. But what is very easy to see is that you would be very unwise to give money to people who clearly feel the need to use dirty tricks to dupe you into buying a product via their links.

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I followed one of the links being distributed in the spam campaign to see what would happen. (By the way, I don’t recommend this for the man-in-the-street… It’s always possible that you could be taken to a malicious site designed to infect your computer).

So, I pulled on my aqualung and donned my protective marigold gloves, and dared to see what lies beneath the Garcinia Cambogia spam campaign.

Clicking on the link I found myself on what, at first site, appeared to be a BBC website.

Is this really the BBC's website?

It certainly *looks* like the BBC News website, and all the links around the main content point to real webpages. But there’s something odd here.

For one thing, I’m just not used to seeing headlines on the BBC News website like:

SPECIAL REPORT: We expose how to lose 23 lbs of Belly Fat in 1 Month With This Diet Cleanse That Celebrities Use

Furthermore, it’s weird to see a YouTube clip of Dr Oz appear on a BBC website. After all, his show doesn’t appear on the BBC.

But, hey, it has the word “BBC” in the URL, so it has to be trustworthy – right?

Close-up of spam website URL

I scrolled down the news article, reading further. And the more I read, the more it didn’t sound like a traditional BBC News article.

For instance, this section:

A miracle diet endorsement? From the BBC?

Conclusion: Like us here at BBC Health, you might be a little doubtful about the effects of this diet, but you need to try it for yourself. The results are real. After conducting our own personal study we are pleased to see that people really are finding success with it (myself included). And you have nothing to lose. Follow the links to order your Garcinia Cambogia I have provided and know that you are getting a quality product that works; no strings attached! Works even better than Green Coffee.

“Good Luck with your weight loss” – Janelle Michaels, BBC Health

For a limited time, the Official Suppliers of Garcinia Cambogia have agreed to offer a Special Promotion to our readers. This comes with a 100% guarantee to lose weight or your money back.
Click Here To Receive Garcinia Cambogia.
Use this exclusive Link for FREE Shipping & Handling

Due to high reader demand and dwindling supplies, This promition will expire Monday July 1, 2013

Umm.. so much for the BBC’s impartiality! I don’t remember the BBC ever offering exclusive links to promote a particular product so their readers can benefit from savings. This is beginning to sound suspiciously like an advert rather than a news report.

So, let’s take a look at the HTML source code behind this “BBC” website.

The webpage sucks in content through an iFrame

Hmm. Well, that’s odd.

It appears that is just a few lines of code, containing a simple iFrame which pulls in web content from a third-party website (which – funnily enough – appears to have a name inspired by the AltaVista search engine of old). Is the real BBC website likely to be shovelling its “news” content from there?

Of course, many people won’t care to look so carefully, and might be vulnerable to buying miracle diets off the web based upon bogus endorsements by the BBC or spam messages from their social network.

The spammers are counting on just a small percentage of visitors being tempted to buy their product, or make a rash decision because of the strong-arm tactics and warnings that the special offer won’t be around for long. And it will be the spammers who will be getting fat from the affiliate cash they could earn.

Please don't go!!

The hard sell continues even when you attempt to close the browser window.

The spammers don't want to say goodbye

If you want to be healthier, and need to lose weight, go to your doctor for sensible advice. Don’t trust everything you read on the internet, even if it at first the advice appears to be shared with you by your social networking friends or by the BBC.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

38 comments on “Don’t be tricked by this fake ‘BBC’ website. Miracle diet spammers post fake news stories”

  1. Ainsley

    What do I do if I just bought that product…

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to Ainsley

      If you don't feel comfortable with them having your credit card details, contact your credit card company.

      1. Evelyn · in reply to Graham Cluley

        I wish i read your article earlier. I too saw the advertisement through one of my friend's social media and the moment i placed an order, payment was processed. there was no invoice or check out page. I called the US office and they said the call is TOLL FREE but i was charged by my telco for the call. I wanted to refund and cancel my order but they told me the order has been processed and they can't retrieve the shipment. They offered to refund 50% of my money to my account though. I received the refund within 2 days and informed my bank about it but they could not do anything about it as the website is "security certified".

        I have since received the products but no idea if it works. Sadly there seems to be no way out to stop them from their unethical methods. As a consumer, i feel like they took advantage of people's unawareness and use it for their business. Even if the products work, i would never never buy from them again and i urge everyone to boycott this website.

        1. Maria · in reply to Evelyn

          You were stupid to buy it so that's your own fault. Everything about those articles screams fake…idiot

    2. Hannah · in reply to Ainsley

      Total scam.!Something has to be done to stop them. Once they have your credit card details they continue to take money out of your account and then they hacked my email address and sent hundreds of emails to people i know and people dont know to drum up business.

  2. Amanda


    I have been a rather embarrassed victim of this scam too. I followed the link on my friends instagram account I thought it was serious.
    Anyway – I have contacted my bank and told them about what was happening – cancelled my card and was issued a new one.
    However because the transaction has not taken place for the $2.95 they advertised for a free trial – they said not alot can be done and Im not sure what to do next apart from cancel my card.
    But this doesnt stop them from having my details and I feel very worried about this.

    Any help at all about what to do next would be of great help.


    1. Ben Hurley · in reply to Amanda

      you are all so stupid I would be more worried about your mental health rather than physical. Do you guys have jobs where you actually have to interact with the real world? I'll admit it was a clever site, it made me sit up and watch the video but the advert at the bottom, the constant flashing FREE BOTTLE NOW sign! Come on guys!!!! I suppose you give the guy in train station £1 for the bus too.
      I read it, I wished it true, I even had thoughts how cool it would be to secretly take the pills etc but simply googled the BBC health journalists name and here you all are looking to get your money back. I think you deserve to lose your money to teach you a lesson and maybe eat less and go for a run and realise there is no wonder drug and never will be. We have been to the moon and back, we fly planes, we can do amazing things, if this could be done it would have been done by now. Anyway, had to comment, sorry and good luck.
      David Cameron
      Prime Minister of United Kingdom
      (for the Americans, I'm kidding)

  3. Darryl

    This did look plausible although the url was a bit suspicious. I'm glad I checked this out. One other thing though is that the link was sent to me from my wife's Hotmail account although she herself never sent it. How does that happen?

  4. Jessica

    Said they charged me to $2.95 yet £106 has come out of my account!! Be very careful! I've blocked my card and bank says if the money does leave my account I have to dispute it to try and get my money back. I have proof of what they claimed to have charged me so hopefully I will get it back. Never normally naive but fell for this stupid scam.

    1. SUKRITI · in reply to Jessica

      We have been duped by them as well more than 170 dollars were charged. Did anyone get back their moeny

      Jessica can u please tell

  5. Tim Horn

    Hi, just spent 4 hours on the phone in an attempt to resolve this issue (having realised I'd been scammed by 'Bio Trim Labs'. In fact I accidentally ordered FIVE of their products but assumed I could update my 'cart' at checkout. However there was no checkout so I phoned the company and they offered to let me have my order at 50% discount!!! I said I just wanted to cancel the order but was informed that 'unfortunately it had already been processed! However they told me that they would cancel the order and the refund paid back into my account within 7-10 days. Not happy I phoned my bank and they gave me a number of details which (if the company faxed them to my bank) would enable them to 'lift' the pending status of the order and no money would be taken from my account. My bank also told me that if Bio Trim Labs failed to send the requisite FAX they would pass it on to their Fraud department and reimburse any funds taken from my account by this nefarious company.

  6. Mark H

    Graham – thanks for your advice. This one had me completely. An email from a good friend at 11.30pm and I am clicking the link and on the site at 6.30 am. It gets to BBC Health and I know my mate desperate to lose weight as he ducked out of our skiing this year and is getting fit for next so I am hooked. At that time of day and in a rush it all looked kosher and so I bought what I thought was 1 jar of miracle extract for £18. Next day my email account is hacked and I send emails to everyone in my contacts very similar to the one I got. I smell a rat and tell all my contacts not to follow the link and change my email password. I then get an email later in the day saying my order was a multi pack of 5 and it has been dispatched. I check my bank and money has not apparently left the account but the rat is very smelly indeed. I call my bank and they confirmed the fraudster have lifted £94.00. I report a fraud, stop the card and the bank (Nat West – brilliant – remarkably as owned by RBS, who definitely aren't) credit the account and report the fraud.

    So all is well and I am now better educated – my only concern now is that is the email safe or do I need to bin the account and start again?

    This is a clever scam and if you get scammed report it to your bank quickly and hopefully get your money back

  7. Natalie Bradbury

    I too fell for this because I believed it to be genuine due to the BBC link. However, I expected £30.95 to be taken off my card and that is the amount that was taken. That was on the 21st April and no further money has been taken since. I then received the product within 4 days.

    Can anyone tell me…if more money was taken from your card than you expected, was it in the first transaction or was it afterwards?

    Also, did you receive the product?


  8. Noor Ashraf

    I have been a victim of this scam aswell. I ordered a botle of £20 and was charged £95.
    Is there any way to recover the money?

  9. john

    hello everyone… i also clicked received an email from a friend and visited the website. Yet i didn't used any link, didn't give any personal data and i left the webpage? is there still any danger for my computer?

  10. Millie Asare

    Could you please subscibe me on the above issues to enable me be aware of all these scams as I have just been a victim as well. Many thanks.

  11. Helen

    I clicked on the link but closed and deleted the email from my "friend" straight away, will I be affected?? Please help

  12. Jo

    Hi, I came across this after a google search (June 2014) re 'google spam BBC health site' as I've had a couple of email messages recently which seemed genuine but just opened up a BBC Health website. I then discovered that spam messages had been sent to all addresses in my address book! Nuisance value and could find no way of getting gmail to do anything even though I gave them the IP lookup address.

  13. Shouldn't the BBC publish an alert about this fake website, and also prosecute the perpetrators for criminal impersonation with the (proven) intent to defraud? That could be a surefire way to nip them. The Beeb could also use its humongous reach through all its media partners and associates to spread word about the spammers.

    1. Sue · in reply to Pavan R Chawla

      Yes, for sure. I totally agree with you. I have called them and you have to fill in the complaints form on their website. If we all do it that should help.

  14. I have received ths twice – nce as coming from a relative who lives in different country to me, then this morning from a relative i don;t have much comunication with, especially as it was sent at 5 am!! What concerns me is how they get the e-mail addresses from my contacts?? that;s a worry and how do i block it as it doest get blocked by my spam filters. thanks p.s. just tried psting this and it’s saying this a duplicate comment, but i’v not commeted to your site before.

  15. Angie Coombes

    I was 'duped'. Received the email from a relatives hacked email account, and assumed my cousin was endorsing this product. Bought what I thought was £18.95s worth of product before I knew about the hacked account. I was charged £104.23. Barclaycard not interested in any refunding on basis of fraud as I had willingly given my card details to the 'merchant' – (I would call them something that can't be printed here!) I engaged in an on-line chat with BioTrim, was told I had bought 5 bottles, not one, hence the £104.23. I could return for refund, but shipping costs would be down to me, and I would be charged 15% restocking fee. OR I could have a 50% discount because of my frustration. I expressed my dissatisfaction but settled for the discount. The refund came in within a few days, and the product came soon after. I'm tempted to bin it after this unpleasant buying experience. On the positive side, my email account has not been compromised and no further funds taken, but I will get Barclaycard to block this 'merchant' just in case.

    1. Sue · in reply to Angie Coombes

      Hi Angie,
      Yes, I feel stupid too, because I was sent a scam email. Unfortunately it came from someone I perceived to be a trusted source. I have had the same experience and the same amount of money taken out of my account, when I only thought i was paying £18.95!! I am about to engage in communications too.
      I have also contacted the BBC. I am sure their tactics must be illegal!

    2. anna chappell · in reply to Angie Coombes

      Dear Angie, Ok , I was stupid too, saw it on BBC news so I bought a bottle … the only thing was they charged me 52 euros when they said there was a special offer and they would not charge for sending…..but they did ..after reading all this stuff here I broke my card up…and just keep getting mails from them asking if I want any more and lots of special offers !
      I would like to try them after all this but not if they are full of poison……(Daily Mail said last week that some girl died after taking pills from the internet) so I just wanted to ask you …..did you take them ? and did they work better than the cabbage soup diet ????—-and are you still here and are you ok ?— it would be good to hear from you.
      Thank you very much.


  16. Maggie Boland

    I have had the same problem and I am with gmail. I have spent all day deleting the return emails

  17. Nicky

    I read the article which was sent to me by one of my relatives and I thought I would try this Miracle Product ! I started my order, but in the end I cancelled when it came to card details. Since then I have had e-mails asking me to complete my order which I wont do of course after reading Graham Cluley's article. Thank you.

    1. Betty · in reply to Nicky

      You people are SO STUPID.
      Don't you know that there are no miracle products, no magic elixirs and no fat burning potions?
      Miracles are for idiots.
      It's all hokum, lies and scams aimed at people who stuff their faces for decades and then think they can buy a get out of jail card for a few bucks.
      Criminals know this and they just love to exploit gullible people who think you can buy a great body.
      You can't.
      Like most worthwhile things it takes effort, self control, motivation and good sense.
      There is only one way to burn fat and lose weight – DON'T EAT SO MUCH.
      The rules of biology are straightforward (if not altogether simple) – if you eat more than you need, your body will lay down the excess as fat.
      So if you want to lose weight, STOP EATING TOO MUCH and STOP EATING CRAPPY FOOD.
      Americans are addicted to sugar and eat the most processed and polluted food in the world.
      You get what you deserve.
      If you allow your government to be paid off by producers of nasty, synthetic, sugar laden crap that passes as food in your country, you will continue to reap the rewards of chronic bad health and huge wobbly bodies – until you learn.

  18. Anita Odam

    I am feeling even more stupid having read all these messages. I had exactly the same experience,e-mail from a friend which was a bit odd but continued watching.I know the only way to lose weight is what you put in your mouth!! However I went ahead and ordered one tub ,gave my details ,thought no more about it!! I returned from a few days away to find this parcel on my doorstop containing 5 tubs of Cambodia and a bottle ofYacon. Bells rang and I checked my Bank Statement to find TWO amounts of monies had been taken from my account on June24th.2014,one for £9.95and £104.23.Apart from feeling panic I could not think what to do.Since then I have had numerous e-mails telling me the monies would be re-imbursed on receipt of unwanted and NOT ordered goods. Tis would cost £10.10p and I refuse to pay them a penny more.Pig-headed maybe but surely there must be a way to stop these Criminals,and recover owed monies. ANY SUGGESTIONS??

  19. Mary MacRae

    I have experienced the same problem. It was sent through a link from a friends email address. The bank say because I handed over my details they are unable to refund me. But this company is fradulent. They are obtaining money under false pretenses. Is there anyone who is able to stop them. I see this scam has been running since 2013.

    1. Linda Griffiths · in reply to Mary MacRae

      Sorry to say this scam is STILL going on. I was caught last month after receiving email from a trusted friend. I agreed to pay £20, but £103 was taken. All lost!!!!!!

  20. ronald

    I am in Australia and this just happened today. I received an email from a friend which only had a message referring to an attachment. On opening this it displayed the false BBC web page with Dr Oz. As soon as I saw this though it looked a genuine web page I closed it. I then got emails showing rejected emails from me to businesses on my contacts list. Also my wife said she received an email from me on her iPad not long after opening the BBC web page. Though I did not do anything re-purchasing I am now concerned my whole contacts list has been compromised along with my own email address. Is there anything I can do aside from change my email account?

  21. Roger

    My partner fell for the Garcinia cambogia scam, but not via the scam BBC site and it cost her a lot of money when more was taken from her Visa account. Of course the stuff didn't work, despite the heavy promotion by Dr Oz, who is a real doctor by the way.

    Today, I received three e-mails from a US friend from her Yahoo a/c, but not sent by her. Each one gave a different address, but all three led to the identical site advertising yet another magic weight remover, this time a White Kidney Bean Extract (their capitals) complete with video of (guess who?) Dr Oz extolling the virtues of this product. The witty but very rude indeed British broadcaster John Oliver did a US TV programme on the good doctor and garcinia cambogia which is on YouTube. In the Land of the Litigious, I don't think he's been sued; possibly in the USA as in the UK and elsewhere, the truth is an absolute defence against libel and slander claims.

  22. shelly from India

    I was also not aware about this scam and also became victim as you guys. I have blocked my card and have also changed my email passwords. But still have doubt for my computers. Will they harm my computer as they do with my card. And tell me how can I get back my money I have lost.

  23. Bugwald Ree

    For once, I would like Satan or a usable Demon to dismember those behind this slimming scamming, and/or skin them alive.
    ( I hope it's legal to write this, or just remove it)

  24. Michael


    I received this promo via my sisters email and she received it from a family friend in Canada. My sister had no knowledge and I assume neither did the friend who only has my sisters address. how do they do that

  25. India

    I cancelled my card straight away. The commonwealth bank in Australia are great. I notified them immediately and it went straight to their fraud team. All monies reimbursed. They still sent me a second bottle two weeks later and still tried calling. Poor didems can't steal the banks money! The tables have turned!

  26. Marcus

    Wow, those guys are really making money. this is not a time to be making jokes people have actually lost money through this.

    Here is what i suggest take care of all your accounts if your account is sending those kinda of massages, i will list here measures you can take to get control of your account:

    1. Change your password regularly.
    2. Never follow links that take you away from your current site, especially if they promise "goodies"
    3. Never join sites that look bogus.
    4 THIS IS IMPORTANT, when you are signing up for new services, even from reputable sites, NEVER USE THE SAME PASSWORD. Use different password from the ones you use on other services.
    a) I suggest you group your passwords, – Social network passwords
    – E-mail passwords
    – E.T.C
    Always update your browser, older browsers are prone to hacks, e.g hackers can read your cookies

    I hope it helps you

  27. Muzzwell

    Does anyone have a "returns" address? My credit card company tells me they will take action if I can obtain a proof of postage for returned goods. Like many people here I was duped like an idiot with the BBC article scam received late evening from a good friend's address. Interesting that the £18.00 charge shown on website grew to £109.00 for me but value of goods on Swiss Post customs declaration was 18.38$ !! Pretty good margins here! They are still trading.

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