A Warning About Fake Celebrity Endorsements

Jean Straupenieks says she isn't impressed with the skin cream she ordered, and it cost her a lot more than she bargained for.

She was on her computer in August when she says a pop-up ad featuring home improvement star Joanna Gaines appeared.

"She was speaking actually speaking in this video to the right of the screen," said Straupenieks. "It said it was a free sample, she endorsed the product, it was a face cream and the only charge would be a shipping charge, so I clicked on that screen or that ad and I gave them my credit card info."

Jean had placed an order for a free sample of Vlamorous Skin Cream and paired it with another product sample the site recommended. She thought she would only be charged a few dollars for the shipping and handling.

"About two weeks later, I was scrolling through my online banking account. And I saw a couple of odd looking charges and they were for $97-98 each," said Straupenieks. "I couldn't determine, there were these strange names, we figured out it was this company and they were calling themselves by a different name."

It turns out Jean had missed the fine print when she placed the order. A Vlamorous customer service representative tells NBC Boston that when Jean failed to cancel after a 14-day trial period, she was automatically enrolled in an automatic shipment program. This meant she would be charged on a monthly basis to receive regular product shipments.

"I trusted Joanna Gaines because I have watched her show many times," said Straupenieks. "She has really good taste, and I trusted her endorsement."

But Joanna Gaines doesn't endorse this product. In an April blog post, she warned fans that she was not getting into the business of facial creams.

"We are aware of the ongoing scam linking Joanna to a line of skincare products," her company, Magnolia Market, told NBC Boston Responds. "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."

Documents obtained by NBC Boston show 37 complaints about the Vlamorous free trial offer have been filed with the Federal Trade Commission.

NBC Boston couldn't get in touch with any official from the company who could answer our questions about the ad featuring Joanna Gaines.

But NBC Boston Responds was able to negotiate with a customer service representative and get Jean a refund for $96.25, half of what she was charged.

"It was pretty nasty," said Straupenieks, "I'm a retiree, and when you're retired, you're on a stringent budget."

If you're tempted to sign up for a free trial offer, do some research online. Search for the name of the product and words like "review" or "complaint." Read the fine print and look for hidden fees or details on how to cancel shipments. And be sure to monitor your credit and debit card statements.

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