Fact Check: 'Toasty Heater' Was NOT Invented By A Firefighter, A Veteran, Or An Army Officer -- It's A Marked-Up Chinese Wholesale Product

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: 'Toasty Heater' Was NOT Invented By A Firefighter, A Veteran, Or An Army Officer -- It's A Marked-Up Chinese Wholesale Product Marketing Ploy

Did an upstate New York firefighter named David, along with his brother, a former NASA engineer, invent a safer, better and more energy efficient electric heater after David's daughter got carbon monoxide poisoning from a fire in her bedroom? No, that's not true: This detailed inventor's narrative, presented with the many high pressure sales tactics like special pricing and purported limited supply, is part of a sales pitch sell a cheap wholesale product for large markups with little to no accountability. The same product featured in several different sponsored ads from the same website features alternate narratives about a Vietnam veteran and an Army Special Forces officer, none verified. The unbranded heating unit can be found in wholesale marketplace listings for as little as $10.

The pitch for the Toasty Heater appears in a post (archived here) where it was published by the Facebook page 'John Tyler' on January 4, 2024. The post was captioned:

Genius American Firefighter discovers an alternative way to stay warm this winter...
And greedy energy companies are trying their hardest to shut him down.
David's new discovery is taking America by storm, and experts say it's the future of heating.
He wants everyone to know about it and join him in his fight against big energy.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Jan 8 17:47:49 2024 UTC)

Lead Stories navigated to the page transparency report (archived here) for the page John Tyler, which includes a link to the ads the page is currently running on Meta platforms. The video ads include three different complex narratives which introduce an inventor who overcomes a near death tragedy related to cold weather and heaters, and then partners with a relative who is a former NASA engineer to invent the high efficiency, energy saving, "Toasty Heater." These three narratives are illustrated with many of the same video clips while other specific details are modified. The text captions on the ads are nearly identical as well. The Genius American Firefighter, and Genius Vietnam War Veteran ads were still active at the time of writing, but the Genius American Special Forces Officer ads were taken down in the afternoon of January 8, 2024.


(Image source: Lead Stories composite image made with Facebook screenshots taken on Mon Jan 8 17:47:49 2024 UTC)

Lead Stories was unable to locate the source video of the fireman, "David," from upstate New York, but we were able to identify the logo on his shirt, for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service Association in Australia. The Vietnam Veteran is David Gonzalez who was interviewed by San Francisco's KQED on his experiences. The interview video posted on YouTube on November 10, 2015, has nothing to do with designing an electric heater.

The post includes a link to shoptoastyheater.com. When the link from the Facebook ad is clicked, the extended url generated contains tracking information about the source of the web traffic. Navigating directly to "shoptoastyheater.com" will take the user to a website index (pictured below) and not an online store website.

(Source: shoptoastyheater.com screenshot taken on Mon Jan 08 18:21:38 2024 UTC)

When clicking through to the website from a Facebook ad (archived here) the page looks more like a promotional ad or a store (pictured below) but is still suspiciously nonfunctional. Buttons for "Check discounts and availability," contact, and the hyperlinked "Toasty Heater" text within the advertorial all bring up a blank page with the same error message: {"status":0,"message":"empty clickid value"}.


(Source: shoptoastyheater.com screenshot taken on Mon Jan 08 18:21:38 2024 UTC)

This advertorial suggests the unit could be valued at least for $1,500 but retails for $99.99. Including a 50 percent "promotional discount" the price is lowered to just $49. Lead Stories used the image (pictured on the right above) to conduct a reverse image search. The results were full of current and discontinued offerings of this unit which was sold without a name brand or information about the manufacturer. Home Depot once featured the little heater under the name "The Optimus 7801" but this has been discontinued and the former price is not listed. Fruugo, an international marketplace headquartered in the UK lists the heater (archived here) under the brand name "Born Pretty" from $11.95 (pictured below). Temu has the heater listed for $8.87 (archived here).


(Image source fruugo.us screenshot taken on Mon Jan 08 18:59:52 2024 UTC)

A December 5, 2023, blogpost in malwaretips.com shows a screenshot of a heater on the wholesale website Alibaba for only $3.45, as well as customized logos and packaging available with a minimum order of 1,000 pieces. Lead Stories was not able to find that offer on Alibaba.com at the time of writing, on January 8, 2024.

The online retailer Toasty Heater, identified with the web address ToastyHeater.com, is not BBB accredited but has an A+ rating. The BBB notes that customer reviews are not used in the calculation of this rating. There are six customer reviews (archived here) that have been posted since December 12, 2023, and all of them give only one star of a possible five. The complaints were all similar, paying too much for a substandard product that did not live up to expectations and poor customer service. "Linda R." wrote:

I ordered one heater. I did not see a Toasty Heater on box or on the product. It looked like a generic heater. I looked up the bar code on the box. They sent me a NIB heater from China. When I contacted them via email they offered to give me a 50% refund on my $62. I'm not sure if the 50% back includes shipping and handling which added $20 to the $42 purchase price. A dollar amount was never stated in their email. I asked for a dollar amount and received no reply back. A new NIB heater, in the box, sells for $17.90, including shipping and handling on Ebay. So getting 50% back means they still make money selling a bait and switch product.

Lead Stories debunked another claim that the heating unit (the same unit as featured in the above advertorial) called the "Cosmo Heater" was being promoted by Elon Musk.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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