Last week, news that a pregnant woman in California had allegedly sold the right to name her first baby to an internet site caused an online frenzy.
A woman by the name of "Natasha Hill" who was "due in September" said she couldn't decide what to name her baby, so she entered the competition on the Belly Ballot website.
Natasha was allegedly chosen from 80 entries after she told the website she'd use the prize money to pay off credit card debts and invest the rest for her child's college fund.
She said her boyfriend Craig was "less enthusiastic, expressing concern that voters won't be able to resist the opportunity to select something crazy".
'He's afraid voters are going to use it as a chance to do something crazy,' said Natasha.
However, visitors to the website would be given a list of names specially selected by the site and the advertiser who will pay the prize money.
The contest was supposed to begin on March 18 at bellyballot.com, a site based on the naming game sometimes played at baby showers, during which guests are given a list of names by expecting parents, and then vote on their favourite.
The online version allows expectant mums to sign up groups of family and friends, and gives them ten names, five boys and five girls to choose from.
Under the "terms" of the competition, Natasha couldn't reject the chosen name.
All a lie
The bizarre story garnered interest from a number of news organisations, including NBC's Today Show.
However the Today Show received a tip off that the whole "competition" had been a hoax.
According to the Today Show site, Natasha Hill is actually Natasha Lloyd, an actress, and she is not pregnant, according to Belly Ballot founder, Lacey Moler.
Moler confessed to the hoax and admitted it was her idea.
"We came up with the idea for the contest and we knew it would be controversial," Moler told the show. "But we're a start-up and we wanted to control the situation."
So, she said, she and her staff decided to "hire someone to be the mom."
Moler approached media outlets about the story, and originally said that 80 women applied to the contest. She has now admitted that, in fact, no one entered it.
Moler said that Lloyd is not pregnant. She would not say how much she paid Lloyd for her part in the hoax, or whether Lloyd would still receive payment now that her identity has been revealed.
"We never thought it would get this big," Moler. Told the show "But after "Hill" was announced as the winner, so many real applications from moms came pouring in."
When reached by phone by the Today Show, Natasha Lloyd confirmed that she was an actress who played the role of Natasha Hill. She declined to comment further on any details of her contract with Belly Ballot, her alleged pregnancy, or the site's contest.
There was no information about the hoax on the belly ballot site, despite the huge internet uproar.
- © Fairfax NZ News