FTC stops e-mail marketing of weight-loss products

U.S. district judge orders company to stop sending spam marketing weight-loss and anti-aging products that allegedly did not work

A U.S. district judge has ordered a company to stop sending unsolicited e-mail marketing weight-loss and anti-aging products that allegedly did not work, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced Thursday.

Judge Morton Denlow of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, issued a temporary restraining order against Nevada-based Sili Neutraceuticals and owner Brian McDaid, doing business as Kaycon, earlier this month.

The operation sent unwanted e-mail messages in violation of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, or CAN-SPAM Act, of 2003, the FTC said. The company's Web sites sold pills that allegedly caused significant weight loss and contained the plant hoodia gordonii under names such as HoodiaHerbal and Hoodia Maximum Strength.

The sites also sold allegedly natural products that were supposed to elevate a user's human growth hormone (HGH) level and thereby dramatically reverse the aging process under names such as Perfect HGH and Dr-HGH.

The claims made about the products were false or unsubstantiated, the FTC said in its complaint. The defendants falsely claimed that their supposed hoodia products cause rapid, permanent and substantial weight loss, as much as 40 pounds a month, the FTC said.

The defendants also falsely claimed that their supposed HGH products would cause a clinically meaningful increase in a consumer's growth hormone levels, the FTC said. The defendants falsely claimed that their HGH products would turn back or reverse the aging process, including lowering blood pressure, reducing cellulite, improving vision, causing new hair growth and improving sleep.

The FTC's spam database has received over 85,000 e-mail messages sent on behalf of the operation, the FTC said. Many of these e-mail messages were sent using Web form hijacking, in which the spammer injects the spam message into form fields on an innocent, third-party Web site, the agency said. The message appears to come from the victim Web site operator's mail server.

This is the first time the FTC has filed a case against spammers using this tactic.

The FTC accused the company of violating CAN-SPAM by sending commercial e-mail messages that contained materially false and misleading header information; contained deceptive subject headings; failed to provide clear and conspicuous opt-out links; and failed to include a physical postal address.

The judge has also ordered the company's assets to be frozen. A hearing scheduled for Monday will determine whether to extend the restraining order and the asset freeze, the FTC said.

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