(UPDATED BELOW 1/6/19) 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.
In early November, 2018 we received the following two emails from women who have described similar experiences to the details in this article.
Email 1: “I was victim of a similar scam as the one you describe on Velaire. I filled out a surve,y allegedly by the New York Times and as a reward I could get free samples of anti-aging cream and I could also get anti-aging serum for eyes and pay only delivery costs of a total around $15. I did obtain the products which were by Velaire. When I looked at my online bank statement I saw that I had been charged $89.77 and $89.71. The phone number was given so I called and the man I spoke to said that it was a free trial but the charge would take effect if the products weren’t returned in 2 weeks. He also mentioned a subscription and said he would cancel it. I did receive an email saying the subscription was cancelled. But the funds were withdrawn from my account on November 5, and the date on the description was given as November 3, but I received the products well before that. The man I spoke to gave me the Velaire website address, but before that he gave me this address: trynutrivanoforskolin[.]com/offers/sfo and then apologized that he had give me the wrong address, so that may be another scam. Two phone numbers were on my bank statement for the Velaire products: 877-503-4810 and 877-499-0268. I called the first one.
Email 2: I was delighted to see your piece about anti-aging creams. This is a terrible scam and I can’t believe they are getting away with it. They use a name and image of some celebrity such as Kathy Gifford and some fake product name. They have even used Kate Middleton and Megan Markle — and then use the scam you outlined. I have been a business reporter most of my life including a half dozen years as personal finance columnist for the Sunday New York Times and I was totally duped by this last year. Unlike the woman who wrote to you, I could not get them to refund my numerous charges. They kept sending the monthly packages and charging the fee over and over. I finally had to cancel my credit card. It was the only way I was able to stop it. I let it get away from me because I’d been in and out of the hospital for years and couldn’t attend to this in time. I was totally under the weather. Now I see the scam repeated over and over. The ads typically feature some women who is leaving a job — a recent one was Joanna Gaines — and then say she is leaving to devote her time to her highly successful skin care business — and also mention Dr. Oz, whom I consider a fraud. How can they get by with this? How can they use a name and image of a celebrity when the celebrity has nothing to do with them? This needs more attention.
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.
During Thanksgiving week another woman contacted us to say that she had been scammed by the billing practices of her purchases and could not get the face cream company to STOP billing her credit card! Here is her timeline in her words:
Message: I, too, was a victim of the face cream scam. Here is my time line…
8/29/18 – order processed
8/30/18 – order shipped
9/14/18 – I was charged for the face cream. That is definitely not 30 days. The phone number associated with this call was, 888-959-1267. I called and they said nothing could be done. After being transferred to a manager, it was agreed that I would receive a $44.99 refund and my subscription would be cancelled.
9/25/18 – I received an e-mail that promised a refund.
11/5/18 – I sent an e-mail asking about the refund.
11/7/18 – I received a second e-mail promising the refund.
11/15/18 – I sent an e-mail asking about the refund. I have not received any refund!
11/24/18 – I was again charged $89.99. The phone number this time was 866-680-2487. I filed a dispute with my bank for the charges.
The people who are pushing these manipulative tricks on consumers are still at it and are creating fake news pages that heavily promote their facial creams! A TDS reader sent us a link to this website that was created just 2 weeks earlier and called “article-news[.]online.” This web page seems to be associated with “Entertainment Today,” a business whose REAL website was registered in 2001 to a company in California. However, the domain “article-news[.]online” was registered on November 26, 2018 through a proxy service in Panama, thereby hiding the real ownership. The article about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry seems nothing more than click-bait to bring people here. The real “prize” is the bogus ads on the right for the facial cream called Elyra Derma. Does this look familiar?
Clicking “Get Trial Offer” on this fake news page brings you to a familiar web page, but this one for a different facial cream called Elyra Derma. Notice that it is exactly like so many other facial creams and contains the “dark patterns” meant to engineer your clicking behavior…
What makes this sham almost comical are the comments that have supposedly been left by people who claim that to use these creams. Below are some comments we found on their web site…
Comments left by “real” people who claim to use this junk cream…
I have been using this Anti Aging cream for 3 weeks now, and I seriously look 5 years younger! Not quite as good as Meghan Markle, but I will take it when it was less than 5 bucks for shipping! My crow’s feet and laugh lines are melting away more and more every day. Thank you so much for reporting on this!
Reply. 13 . Like . 12 minutes ago
I saw Meghan Markle presenting ElyraDerma Cream on CNN a while ago and am still using the cream. I’ve been using the products for about 6 wks. Honestly, this is unbelievable, all I have to say is WOW.
Reply. 6 . Like . 13 minutes ago
Jennifer Jackson Mercer
A friend of mine used and recommended it to me 3 weeks ago. I ordered the product and received it within 3 days. The results have been incredible and I can’t wait to see what weeks 3 and 4 bring.
Reply. 19 . Like . 25 minutes ago
I wish I knew about this product before I had botox injections! It would have saved a heck of a lot of money!
Reply. Like . 46 minutes ago
I can’t believe this is really free! I am very much pleased after using this product.
[TDS NOTE: This cream is NOT free! You pay for shipping and after a few weeks you’ll be charged an OUTRAGEOUS price monthly for this cream!]
Reply. 43 . Like . about an hour ago
I saw this on the news. How lucky is Kim to have been given this opportunity!?!?! Thank you for sharing this article! I just ordered my free sample.
Reply. 3 . Like . 1 hour ago
probably I’m a bit older than most of you folks. but ElyraDerma Cream worked for me too! LOL! I can’t say anything more exciting. Thanks for the inspiration!
Reply. Like . 2 hours ago
My sister did this a few months ago, I waited to order my sample to see if it really worked and then they stopped giving out the samples! what a dumb move that turned out to be. glad to see the samples are back again, I wont make the same mistake.
Reply. 12 . Like . 2 hours ago
Kirsten Bauman Riley
I’m going to give this product a chance to work its magic on me. I’ve tried everything out there and so far nothing has been good enough to help me.
Reply. 30 . Like . 2 hours ago
worked for me! It worked just like I thought it would. It was easy enough and I just want others to know when something works.
Reply. 53 . Like . 2 hours ago
Alanna ‘martin’ Payne
Thanks for the info, just started mine.
Reply. 16 . Like . 2 hours ago
Been so busy with the kids lately that I’m never able to find deals like this. I’ll give it a shot!
Reply. 2 . Like . 2 hours ago
Always impressed with the deals you guys dig up, got my sample. Can’t wait to see what you’ve got lined up next week.
Reply. 11 . Like . 2 hours ago
Ashley O’Brien Berlin
Yes this stuff is amazing! My best friend Gina uses this, I’ve been trying for years to get rid of my wrinkles and nothing was helping. You alerted me to the possibility of achieving my goals, which is looking great for my daughter’s wedding. I just ordered the free sample and I have a very good feeling about it!!
Reply. 33 . Like . 2 hours ago
Hey Christine, i just placed my order. I can’t wait to get my ElyraDerma Cream!! Thanks, Aimee xoxoxo.
Reply. 23 . Like . 3 hours ago
My mom just e-mailed me this, a friend at work had told her about it. i guess it works really well
Reply. 6 . Like . 3 hours ago
Shellie Wilson Hodge
Telling all my friends about this, thanx for the info
Reply. 2 . Like . 3 hours ago
wasn’t sure about ordering online but this deal seals it for me, didn’t want to miss out. checked out the pages and all is encrypted and good. looking forward to my new looks
Reply. 17 . Like . 4 hours ago
Molly Murley Davis
I’ve gone ahead and ordered my sample. I can’t wait to get started and see what happens.
Reply. 8 . Like . 6 hours ago
Jenna Ponchot Bush
As a realtor it’s important to look and feel my best, unfortunately the housing market isn’t doing that great so cash has been a little tight lately. Thanks for the info, looking forward to receiving my sample bottle.
Reply. 20 . Like . 8 hours ago
Laura Kelch Miranda
I have tried so much of this kind of stuff, in one sense I want to try it but in the back of my mind I am thinking, yeah right!! Someone please reassure me it works.
Reply. 10 . Like . 8 hours ago
I tried the wrinkle cream thing a while ago and it worked pretty good.
Reply. 13 . Like . 8 hours ago
Lauren Kirschenbaum Silver
For once I was able to do something nice for myself without feeling guilty about the cost. Can’t beat free.
Reply. 3 . Like . 8 hours ago
Gotmy Mindframe Right
Had no idea you could get results like this.
Reply. 5 . Like . 9 hours ago
In early January, 2019 we were contacted by Ms. Sheena M. about her purchase of Velaire Anti-Aging Cream and Serum. Here is what she told us:
“I just wanted to update you on the fact that I was just recently a victim to this very same “false news article” featuring the same exact story with Meghan Markle and exactly identical webpage picture for picture and word for word including right down to the product reviews from customers! Here I was thinking I was just paying 2 separate shipping fees for 2 trial products. There was NO “fine print” anywhere and nothing that stated I was signing up for a “Monthly Product Delivery Plan” on the order site or payment page either. And I was never asked to check a box to agree to any terms of service. Almost 2 weeks ago I did receive both trial products of Velaire, which came in the same box, by the way! So #1- I’m trying to figure out why I paid for 2 separate shipping fees. And #2- since I never agreed to any terms of service or Monthly plan, why is it that they are suddenly charging me 2 separate fees of almost $90 each? And #3- The company that put the charges through to my bank (RenewAF for the Face Cream Phone- 1-877-641-4317 out of CA) & (EthicaEyesRM for the Serum: Phone-1-877-630-2470 also out of CA) is NOT called VELAIRE, but the packing list I received with my items says Velaire and gives 2 different phone numbers to call
Velaire anti aging cream Phone- 1-888-382-7943
Velaire anti aging serum Phone- 1-888-382-7947.
So armed with this information I am promptly contacting my bank this morning and filing fraudulent charges against them! I included both sets of phone numbers in the hopes that they may help someone else also dealing
with these companies who think they can just take advantage of people whenever they want without paying any price for it! Have a wonderful day and thank you for your watchfulness! “
FINAL NOTE: We found dozens of scam skin cream names and phone numbers, along with instructions HOW to cancel on the women’s blog called WomensBlogTalk. Also, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) Marketplace published an expose about these scams back in October, 2017 called “Free Trial Scams: Don’t Click That Link!”