We were recently contacted by a woman who ordered two free sample skin care products through an advertisement on Facebook. The ad suggested they were part of Kathy Lee Gifford’s new skin care product line. The ad also had other celebrity endorsements, she said. The products were Velairé Anti-aging cream and serum. (NOTE: TDS has seen many questionable and outright-scam ads on Facebook. We do not recommend purchasing a product through Facebook Ads, despite Facebook’s newly expressed commitment to safeguarding its users from fraud or fake news.) The Facebook advertisement said she could order a sample of each anti-aging cream and only pay the shipping cost. Each product was 15 ml, or 0.50 fluid ounces. At checkout she paid $4.95 to ship one and $3.95 to ship the other. There was no reason given why they couldn’t be shipped together in the same box for a single shipping price. (She ordered both at the same time.) She also told us that she had to agree to the “Terms” at check out before clicking the final purchase button.
Would you have read a list of Terms in grey text against a white background? Or would you have read more than a dozen pages of legal text? Apparently, the devil is in the details. Buried in those Terms were statements saying that she was signing up for a “trial” that included very steep monthly fees. if she did not cancel her “trial” in 14 days, she would be charged for each sample she received. Like so many of us, she didn’t read those detailed terms and on day 15 was shocked to see the following charges appear on her credit card:
EYE SERUM YOUTHFUL -$89.77
Yes, that’s nearly $90 each for 0.5 ounces. For some perspective here 0.5 ounces is the same as 3 teaspoons. She paid almost $30 per teaspoon for anti-aging cream and serum and found herself on a monthly subscription for these products. Just for some perspective, the cost of Silver on the commodities market on the day we write this article is $8.18 for 0.5 ounces. Silver cost less than one-tenth of the cost of this anti-aging skin care product! Of course the woman was terribly upset by these charges for what, she thought, was a free sample (plus almost $9 for shipping). She called a customer service number that was provided with her order and was quickly connected to a woman at the other end. The customer service rep asked if she had read the Terms of the purchase which clearly stated the expected charges if she didn’t cancel. The Purchaser explained how unfair these terms were and the fact that they were not clearly disclosed. She also said that she wasn’t satisfied with the product. To their credit, the customer service representative credited the woman’s account and cancelled the monthly service.
After hearing about this experience, The Daily Scam started to do a bit of digging into these online skin care products, especially anti-aging creams and serums. What we found totally surprised us! The advertising practices and “dark pattern” social engineering of consumers was exceptionally scam-like and we wanted to document some of these unfair practices here for consumers to see. However, to be perfectly clear, we cannot speak to the efficacy of these products to produce the results they claim to achieve. We are not calling these products scam products.
Let’s begin with the Velairé Anti-aging cream and serum. We conducted a simple Google search for these and easily found a plethora of oddball websites giving positive reviews and explanations of these skin care products. And every one of these review sites included links to purchase free “trial” samples. Let’s begin with this explanation of Velaire cream from bluesupplement.com:
Though it may not seem important, the web page contained a few subtle grammatical errors. Bluesupplement.com was registered on August 11, 2017 through a proxy service in Panama and the website title says “Blue Supplements Reviews & Rating of Medicines.” Here are screenshots from several other review websites for Velaire skin cream products that came up in our search:
The titles of some of these sites were peculiar and many of them had a layout, design and content that were extremely similar. The domains and registration information were as follows:
Website Links and Domain Information
For example, one website described “Velaire Cream is a complete anti ageing cream for every skin type as claimed by its manufacturers. The product is uniquely designed to work deep on dermal layers within each cell to boost the sound health of your skin from within. The cream makes your complexion look even, radiant and youthful. The potent ingredients of the cream also boost collagen production and development which makes your skin appear brighter and supple.” [NOTE: According to Grammarist.com, “ageing” is the preferred spelling for “aging” OUTSIDE of North America.]
We were interested in a free trial so clicked the button for “START YOUR FREE TRIAL!” Instead of being taken to a website to buy Velairé Anti-aging cream and serum we were sent to TryAdelinaSkin.com to purchase Adelina Skin Products:
Besides the fact that Adelina Cream was not the product we wanted to purchase, several other things struck us about this trial offer (and the fact that the page used the word “trial” five times):
- The Adelina product container looked identical to one of the Velaire product containers
- This webpage contains several “dark patterns” that are meant to manipulate consumer behavior:
- Red banner calling our “ATTENTION” to the high demand indicating that they cannot guarantee they have product in stock i.e. you better hurry!
- Grey bar indicating only 100 trials are available now
- Grey bar at bottom stating “Limit 1 trial per Customer”
- The domain tryadelinaskin.com was registered on December 17, 2017 through a proxy service in Panama and had nothing to do with the Velaire products we were interested in
Next we visited another website that described Velaire anti-aging skin cream and clicked their link for a trial offer. Once again, we were sent to a different skin cream product, this one called Livali, at the website trylivalitrial.com. The screenshot you see here is not our duplication error! It is almost identical to the webpage from tryadelinaskin.com! (NOTE: All yellow and red arrows on the screenshots are our effort to bring attention to something for our readers.) In addition to the other social engineering tricks mentioned above was a black box with text saying “44 others are viewing this offer right now. Claim Your Trial Bottle Now!” The pressure is on!
(Trylivalitrial.com was registered through a proxy service in Great Britain on February 5, 2018 and updated on May 23.)
Now we were REALLY suspicious and felt completely manipulated by the sellers of these products. We decided to look for a new website for skin care products connected to Kathie Lee Gifford and easily found a website called PatientHelp.org which contained a link for a free offer for Renown Eye Cream. (Patienthelp.org was registered in the Bahamas back in 2013 through a proxy privacy service and updated on March 29, 2018.)
Of course we clicked the link to claim our free bottle! Surprisingly, this time we were taken to a website that sold the Renown product line, called tryrenownskinlabs.com. (This domain was registered in Panama using a private proxy service on March 2, 2018) Does this look familiar?
At this point we felt compelled to move forward and “RUSH MY TRIAL.” We filled out the form, clicked and were sent to another screen to enter our credit card information. Take a CLOSE AND CAREFUL look at all the information on this web page:
More social engineering tricks…
- “13 others are viewing this offer right now”
- A timer starting at 5:00 minutes began to countdown by seconds
- Current availability is listed as “low stock” with “sell-out risk HIGH”
But most importantly, at the bottom of the web page (and off our screen; we had to scroll to see it) were terms stating “upon clicking your order today you’ll be shipped a 30 days supply of Renown Skin Labs Face Cream (Just Pay $4.95 for S&H). If you feel Renown Skin Labs Face Cream is not for you, cancel within 14 days Trial (10 days trial + 4 days shipping) from today to avoid the purchase fee of $98.96 + $4.95 shipping and enrollment in the auto-shipment program which sends you 1 month supply every 30 days starting 30 days after your trial period at the low price of $98.96 + $4.95 shipping per month.”
Again, we looked for yet another review site for Velaire face cream for a free trial. There seem to be dozens of these websites! We found Velairefacecreams.com and clicked “Rush My FREE Trial.” (Velairefacecreams.com was registered January 19, 2018.) We were sent to the website lereviva.com selling “Le Reviva Ageless Face Cream” where we, again, filled out the form and clicked “RUSH MY TRIAL.”
We found five more sites promoting Velaire face cream and clicked links for free trial offers. In each case we were taken to another skin care product website that was identical to the screenshots above. Summary of our five additional sites:
Velairecream.com leads to… Lereviva.com
Registered 11/28/2017 through a proxy service
Velaireskincare.net leads to… Lereviva.com
Velairecream.net leads to… Lereviva.com (via redirect at clickstoclaim.com)
At the bottom of the Le Reviva final step payment page we also found two very important pieces of information for consumers. The first states that “This product has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Results in description are illustrative and may not be typical results and individual results may vary. The depictions on this page are fictitious and indicative of potential results. Representations regarding the efficacy and safety of Le Reviva™ have not been scientifically substantiated or evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.”
But more importantly, we found a TINY link for “TERMS.” This link led to a popup containing more than 7000 words that fill 16 standard pages of paper. (The TERMS also contains numerous typos, grammatical errors and combined words.) Amongst those terms we learned that you must call within 15 days of your order date “to avoid the purchase price of $89.99 and enrollment in the auto-shipment and auto-billing program, which charges you for a 1 month supply every 30days starting 30 days after your trial period ends, at the low price of $89.99 per month.” And if you cancel, you’ll be asked to ship back the trial samples or pay a “retention fee” of $9.95.
By no means did we exhaust exploring all of the many review websites we found littering the Internet about anti-aging facial and skin creams. There were simply too many! But what we concluded from our investigation is crystal clear. The promotion and marketing of these creams feels extremely scammy and deceptive. Don’t overlook the important fact that we could not locate and verify the name and location of a single company selling any of these products or providing reviews of these products! All the website owners were hidden by proxy privacy services and did not list themselves on their selling web pages. Even the two charges that appeared on the woman’s credit card who first brought this to our attention didn’t list a company name! However, we do find lots of breadcrumb evidence to suggest that the sellers of these products are from other countries based on some domain registration information and language errors on many web pages we read.
And so, dear consumer… CAVEAT EMPTOR! The scammy method by which these products are reviewed and sold make us wonder about the effectiveness of the products themselves.