People have been chasing the fountain of youth as far back as the 4th century BC, so its no wonder the anti-aging market has boomed over the years. In 2019, $53 billion was spent on anti-aging products and procedures, and much went to anti-aging scams.
Today we have creams, surgeries, pills, and more to help reduce the appearance or physical ailments commonly associated with getting older. Though some products can help provide comfort, decrease lines, or take away the gray, there are many products that at best do nothing but waste our money and, at worst, cause us more significant harm.
Anti-aging products are not just for changing one’s physical appearance; many make claims of improving health or eliminating the risk of specific diseases or even curing illnesses. When products make big promises such as reducing pain associated with arthritis or preventing the risk of cancer, it is no wonder so many are willing to try it.
Millions of seniors lose money to anti-aging scams, every year, that claim to help them look and feel better—billions of dollars are lost to scams involving anti-aging products. These scams have not only taken people’s money, but they have also caused physical harm and some even life-threatening illness.
In this article, we explore the different factors that play a roll in anti-aging scams and why and how they work. Also, we list the top three anti-aging scams to be aware of, how to identify these scams, how best to avoid them altogether, and how to find safe trustworthy anti-aging products.
Why Seniors are Targeted for Anti-Aging Scams
Several wonderful things come with age, such as senior discounts, wisdom, and retirement. However, there are a few not so great things, such as some of the physical changes that occur, which sometimes cause pain, insecurity, and more.
Unfortunately, these issues make seniors more susceptible to anti-aging scams. Professional criminals know how to trigger and manipulate the emotional discomforts that often come with age. This is the same reason that dating scams and Social Security scams often target seniors.
As a result of our emotional vulnerability when it comes to this subject, many seniors jump at the chance of reducing, reversing, or slowing the changes of aging.
So it is easy to see how anti-aging scams work by playing on our insecurities and vulnerabilities. A few false promises and a product that looks legitimate is all it takes for scammers to get into our wallets successfully.
Scam #1 False Promises
The most common anti-aging product scam is selling “Amazing New Products that will Change Your Life Forever!” or something to that effect. Basically, a product that promises the moon and stars, but delivers nothing instead.
An example of this popular scam is an anti-aging product called Harry’s Supreme Formula HGH and Youthful Vigor HGH.
The company claimed the supplement would:
- Regrow hair
- Remove wrinkles
- Increase muscle mass
- Aid in weight loss
- Stop and reverse the aging process
This magical pill was said to contain human growth hormones (HGH), which could provide these miracle results. However, after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) purchased and analyzed the supplement, they found that the pill contained no human growth hormones or any other product that would aid in achieving the promised results.
Additionally, according to Marc R. Blackman, M.D., of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, if there were HGH in the pill, it would not be effective since our digestive enzymes would break down the HGH before it could be absorbed into our systems
Thankfully, though there was nothing in the pill that would harm the user. The only thing this pill reduced was the money in people’s bank accounts.
Anti-aging scams using claims of HGH are on the rise. The increase is due to research results published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The article reflected positive outcomes when using HGH for some anti-aging treatments. The release of this information increased anti-aging products claiming to contain HGH or stating the product has similar ingredients to HGH.
False advertising doesn’t just come from no-name companies or shady late-night infomercials; large corporations are equally at fault. Well-known, respected companies like Estée Lauder, Lancôme, Clinique, and ReVive have all been implicated in lawsuits for false advertising using anti-aging propaganda. So, consumers need to make sure they are doing their research before buying any anti-aging products.
Scam #2 Non-FDA Approved Medicine
The other most common scam is selling an inferior anti-aging product under the guise of the real FDA approved option. An example of this came to light with Botox products in 2004.
In 2004, a New York licensed plastic surgery group knowingly ordered and billed more than 150 patients for a non-FDA approved Botox knock-off. The clinic knew the product they were selling to patients was not the product they claimed it was when they administered it to their clients. The plastic surgeon clinic was later brought up on charges and, finally, plead guilty to the crime in 2009.
Also, in 2004, a physician knowingly injected fake Botox into multiple clients, his girlfriend, and himself with devastating results. The cheap Botox replacement caused Botulinum toxicity causing catastrophic consequences.
Botox scams are extremely dangerous to patients because the base ingredient used is botulism neurotoxin, which is an extremely toxic material. If a batch is crudely made or is contaminated, the results can be disastrous.
Scams selling anti-aging products have known to include ingredients that are harmful carcinogens such as beryllium, arsenic, and cadmium, which is why it is imperative to use caution before taking any new supplements.
Over the years, the FDA and FBI have gotten involved and tightened up regulations and brought criminals selling and injecting fake Botox to justice. Yet, even with the tightened up controls, Botox and similar scams still exist.
Scam #3 Theft
Because anti-aging products hold such high appeal, it is not surprising cyber-criminals have joined in on the scam. Anti-aging internet scams come in the form of pop-ups or emails advertising products with amazing abilities. After you click on the link provided in the pop-up or email will redirect you to a fake product website.
However, after clicking on the link, you may also trigger the program to install malware into your computer. Malware is a virus or spyware that allows scammers to access your personal information such as user names, credit card numbers, bank account information, and passwords.
Unfortunately, malware installation happens behind the scenes, so the user does not know what is happening until it is too late.
When you receive these emails or pop-ups delete or “x” out of them immediately, never click on the link provided.
How to Identify Anti-Aging Scams
Most anti-aging scams depend on marketing and false advertising, to get their product in your hands. And, one of the top ways you can avoid anti-aging scams is to know how to identify them. One of the quickest methods of spotting a scam is by reading their advertising, which often has multiple red flags.
Below are some of the easiest ways you can identify an anti-aging scam:
- “If it sounds too good to be true…” this age-old saying is likely to be the biggest red flag. If the product worked as well as it claimed, why isn’t everyone using it? The answer, because it isn’t the product it claims to be.
- Claims with phrasing like, “…the pharmaceutical companies don’t want you to know…”
- Avoid “Trial Offers”
- Money-back guarantees
- Avoid products that say they can cure diseases and illnesses
- Don’t trust all of the endorsements on the label, even if they come from a celebrity.
- If the product claims no side effects, likely it is a bogus product.
- Avoid products claiming it makes going to the doctor no longer necessary.
- Phrasing such as “secret ingredient” or “scientific breakthrough.”
How to Avoid Anti-Aging Scams
There are somethings you can do pro-actively to avoid anti-aging scams, one of which is fact-checking and research, below are some ways to do this:
- Check the Better Business Bureau to see what previous clients are saying and how they rate.
- If you are getting Botox injections first check to see if you are going to an authorized group who purchased their Botox from US FDA approved producers, at the Allergan or Galderma websites.
- Only got to a licensed medical professional for anti-aging procedures, but first, do your research on that clinic.
- Check with your doctor – Supplements do not require FDA approval, so just because it is sitting on your pharmacy’s shelf doesn’t mean its an approved product.
- When on your computer never click on popups or links in emails from unknown senders selling anti-aging products.
How to Safely and Securely Purchase Anti-Aging Products
Not all anti-aging products are a scam. For example, Botox injections do reduce signs of lines and wrinkles. There are even some clinics that can legally administer HGH for safe aging solutions.
But with the multitude of scams out there, it is difficult to know who and what to trust. When in doubt, contact your physician, they can help steer you in the right direction. They can also refer you to a licensed plastic surgery centers that offer anti-aging treatments or to a licensed dermatologist that can perform minimally invasive procedures such as micro-needling and chemical peels.
And before taking any supplements, contact your doctor first to ensure the supplement is both safe and won’t have any adverse reactions to other medications you may be taking.
It is natural to consider or even purchase anti-aging products and services, but before you do, you must know what you are buying and using. Anti-aging scams can take a lot more than just your money.
When it comes to anti-aging products, the cheapest isn’t always best, and though somethings may seem benign at first glance, it may have very opposite results. So, for your safety more than anything else, be sure to take cautionary steps to ensure you are getting the best care possible.
To report anti-aging scams contact:
- Your local State Consumer Protection Offices
- Contact the FTC to report the scam
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