The Jeopardy! co-host is the latest celebrity to be unwittingly featured in a scam involving CBD products
In early March 2022, many Facebook users began to see ads for CBD gummies supposedly endorsed by actress and “Jeopardy!” co-host Mayim Bialik, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Around the same time, Google searches about Mayim Bialik and CBD gummies began to spike.
VERIFY viewer Judy asked in an email whether Bialik’s endorsement of “her new CBD product claiming to reverse dementia and pain” was real. “Can this be verified?” she asked.
CBD is a chemical compound found in cannabis that has some purported health benefits, and is often sold in edible form such as gummy candies.
Is Mayim Bialik endorsing CBD gummies?
No, Mayim Bialik is not endorsing CBD gummies.
WHAT WE FOUND
According to the Mayo Clinic, cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical found in marijuana, although not one that causes a high. Though there are many CBD products on the market, only one has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — an oil used to treat epilepsy.
The product at the center of the Mayim Bialik claims, CBD gummies, are gummy candies with CBD oil as one of the ingredients. These types of gummies are not FDA approved, but many claim they can treat anxiety, sleep disorders and certain pain disorders.
Scientists are still conducting research on CBD’s effectiveness in treating various medical conditions, as well as its safety. The FDA and Harvard Health note CBD oil can produce side effects such as nausea, fatigue and irritability, and can interact with certain medications. Since CBD gummies aren’t regulated by the FDA, the agency has concerns some products do not contain the dosage advertised. But Harvard Health says CBD “appears” safe for adults.
People began seeing advertisements and reviews of “Mayim Bialik CBD gummies” on both Facebook and Google in early March 2022. The products are not endorsed by Mayim Bialik at all, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns the ads and reviews direct people to scam websites designed to lure them into submitting their credit card information.
On March 21, 2022, Bialik posted to her Instagram that she is not selling CBD gummies and does not plan to do so at any point in the future. She called the ads and reviews a “hoax.”
The ads using Bialik’s name take people to websites that make unproven claims about CBD products, promise a discount or deal on the product, and warn of a dwindling supply. According to the BBB, after a person submits their credit card info, there’s no guarantee that they will receive their order.
Some victims receive a larger order of CBD gummies than expected, and some people are registered for a monthly subscription of the gummies without consenting. In the end, the scammers surprise the victim with credit card charges of hundreds of dollars, and make it difficult or impossible to get a refund, the BBB said.
Sometimes, victims are directed to these scam sites via fake webpages meant to add credibility to the transaction, usually through alleged celebrity endorsements or spoofed product reviews, as seen in the Bialik scam.
In one instance, a Facebook ad using Bialik’s name led to a phony news article on a website meant to look like Fox News on the now-defunct URL “denuvo.fun.” The denuvo.fun URL was registered to a Chinese web domain registrar on Feb. 18, 2022.
The spoofed Fox News article describes the CBD gummies almost as a miracle cure — one that could even reverse or stop dementia and Alzheimer’s. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been combatting those exact claims in CBD product marketing since 2020, calling them “scientifically unsupported.”
Depending on how the user got to the denuvo.fun webpage, the website would appear in two different ways: The fake Mayim Bialik Fox News article that advertised CBD gummies, shown below, or an online store called “Bodega.” Archives of the website captured the Bodega version of the page.
The phony news article, as well as the articles advertising Mayim Bialik CBD gummies, link to online CBD gummy scams that both the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission have warned consumers about over the past couple of years. A BBB spokesperson confirmed in an email that the Bialik gummies are part of the same scam.
According to the BBB, a number of CBD scams use fake celebrity endorsements and free trial offers to lure people into providing their credit card information.
Customers of at least one of the supposed businesses claiming to be endorsed by Bialik, Cannaleafz CBD, described those exact actions in complaints on the company’s BBB page.
This is not the first time a phony celebrity endorsement has been used to sell CBD gummies. February 2022 fact-checks from AFP and Politifact identified CBD gummy ads using the names of Baptist pastor Charles Stanley, TV evangelists Joel Olsteen and Pat Robertson, former Shark Tank contestants Donna and Rosy Khalife, neurosurgeon and CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, actor Kevin Costner, and celebrity surgeon and U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz. Some of the Bialik gummy reviews even link to matching reviews using other celebrities’ names, such as one for “Laura Ingraham CBD Gummies.”
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