The idea behind a good direct marketing campaign is to acquire happy, repeat customers that purchase again and again and have a high lifetime value. Then there’s your scam artists who are out for the quick buck and lure you in with deceptive advertising. Some of them so deceptive that you’re credit card is charged month after month for a product you never agreed to purchase.
Such is the case with the company Intelligent Beauty, LLC, marketing a product called IQ Derma. As you can see from the ad above, we have a photo of the Bride of Godzilla who appears to have been magically transformed into a princess by using their skin care products. If these claims were actually substantiated, it would put plastic surgeons out of business. Take a closer look at the blue smudgy print to the right of the photo where it says Simulated Imagery … meaning … fake results. Take another look at this landing page from IQ Derma to see even more of their before and afters that say “Dramatization: Not Actual Results”. At least the print is more visible on the website than on the ads they have placed all over the Internet.
Now notice at the bottom of the photo to the left where the ad says Try it FREE. You might take that to mean that you actually get to try it for free. I’m not usually one to fall for scams or even try free trials, but it must have caught me at the right time because for the first time in my life, I sent away for their FREE trial. You have to give them your credit card number and $3.95 shipping to receive the free trial.
I received my free trial and thought great … that’s the end of that. I used it for awhile and wasn’t impressed in any way with the product and thought … well, glad it was a free trial since it is crap and doesn’t really do what it claims to do. Two months later, I receive an identical box to the first box. I opened it and scratched my head and said wtf? Why are they sending me another free trial? I just put the box in a closet since the first product had not been used. Two months later … yep … another box. This one I investigated more thoroughly. Hidden under wrapping and under a catalog was an invoice for $95.70. I was shocked to find that I had already been charged $95.70 for this box, the second box and the original “free trial” box for a total of nearly $300 charged to my credit card.
Yeah … I know. Don’t tell me. I should have noticed this charge on my statement before this, but I simply didn’t. A lot of money comes and goes through my account and I didn’t see it. Naturally, I was furious about being conned into being enrolled into some kind of membership without my knowledge and being charged $95.70 every two months. First thing I did was go to my bank and file an unauthorized charge form. Then I filed an FTC complaint against the company and a RipOff Report. Next step is the Better Business Bureau, which they appear to be a member of. I may or may not get my money back but I’m sure going to kick and scream about being ripped off. This companys marketing practices clearly fall under the FTC Negative Option Offers rules.
“Negative Option Offers: The Negative Option Rule applies to sellers of subscription plans who ship merchandise like books or compact discs to consumers who have agreed in advance to become subscribers. The Rule requires ads to clearly and conspicuously disclose material information about the terms of the plan. Further, once consumers agree to enroll, the company must notify them before shipping to allow them to decline the merchandise. Even if an automatic shipment or continuity program doesn’t fall within the specifics of the Rule, companies should be careful to clearly disclose the terms and conditions of the plan before billing consumers or charging their credit cards. See Negative Option Rule.”
The same type of misleading advertising is being used by mobile content providers, although with some serious backlash from the FTC in the form of hefty settlements from companies like AT&T and AzoogleAds.
We as Internet marketers make decisions daily about products and offers that we’ll promote. There are many affiliate marketers out there that attempt to hard sell their customers with promises and claims that are highly misleading and deceptive. Compelling sales copy makes a difference in sales and powerful words such as “exceptional”, “astonishing”, “free”, and many others are used in sales copy to convince the visitor to make a purchase. In addition, many marketers who are unencumbered by ethics use sales letters with fake screenshots of earnings and fake testimonials or endorsements to promote products. Instead of facts, marketers are in the business of selling lies, of over-promising and under-delivering to push sales – It might be a cliché, but marketers are indeed selling hope – making promises that reinforce that hope to consumers and lure them into buying their brands.
There is growing evidence in the advertising industry that the FTC is cracking down on deceptive marketing practices as seen by fines for incentivized offers, the weight loss and dietary supplement industries, and mobile content companies, as well as many other industries.
“According to an FTC Publication on Advertising on the Internet, advertising must tell the truth and not mislead consumers. In addition, claims must be substantiated.
Sellers are responsible for claims they make about their products and services. Third parties - such as advertising agencies or website designers and catalog marketers - also may be liable for making or disseminating deceptive representations if they participate in the preparation or distribution of the advertising, or know about the deceptive claims.
Advertising agencies or website designers are responsible for reviewing the information used to substantiate ad claims. They may not simply rely on an advertiser’s assurance that the claims are substantiated. In determining whether an ad agency should be held liable, the FTC looks at the extent of the agency’s participation in the preparation of the challenged ad, and whether the agency knew or should have known that the ad included false or deceptive claims.”
Affiliate marketing has already taken a huge hit in perception by people that affiliate marketers are a pack of liars and scammers, but now they not only have to deal with a bad reputation, but can be held accountable for the products and services they promote by the FTC.
The bottom line is that people choose their lot in life. You can choose the low road and fall back on the very lame excuse of “market forces” to determine your ethics or choose the high road and build a sustainable, reputable online business.
NEW: My bank just refused to get involved so I’m going to have to deal with being ripped off by IQ Derma myself. Please help this post go viral by linking to it, Stumbling it, or bookmark to Reddit. This scam needs to be exposed. Not only are they ripping people off through IQ Derma, but they have another company selling “Mineral” makeup. Read this comment from another site:
Now Intelligent Beauty LLC, Raw Natural Beauty is scamming people with a free trial on makeup using someone elses’ name.
They are using the name Raw Minerals, and the real company Raw minerals is getting hit with hundreds of phone calls asking for their money back. Look what I found on the real Raw minerals website under disclaimers:
RAW minerals™ All Natural Mineral Makeup is in no way associated to RAW Natural Beauty whom recently has changed their name March 23,2007 to RAWMINERALS. We have received hundreds of phone calls asking for refunds for a free offer that has been given by RAW Natural Beauty, now calling itself RAWMINERALS & Signature RAW
RAW minerals™ All Natural Mineral Makeup has never, and will never offer a free trial offer for our products. It is not a necessary ploy of ours to have to do so. We maintain the right to keep our products salon and spa formulated, and refrain from such business tactics. If you need to get a hold of this other company, please do so with the following information. We are glad to provide it for you.
Raw Natural Beauty ; Signature RAW
Intelligent Beauty, LLC
2301 Rosecrans Ave.;
El Segundo, CA 90245
(866) 381-4203, or, (866) 906-3458
Here’s the new kid in town, Dermitage.com. Notice how this model looks barely human … kind of like she is an burn victim and then how beautiful she is in the after photo. Of course this is “simulated results” the same as the IQ Derma scammers. Now notice below the very generous offers of 2 Months Supply Free?
Well, friends … don’t believe it for a minute. It’s exactly the same scam that IQ Derma is running. Here’s the TOS that they would rather you didn’t read.
Terms & Conditions
Your FREE Trial of the Dermitàge Anti–Aging System includes a full 60–day supply for just $5.95 in shipping and processing. You will have 30 days to try the Dermitàge Anti–Aging System and discover why it is the perfect skincare system for you. If you like how our system reduces the visible signs of skin aging, do nothing – at the end of your free–trial period you will be billed the discounted price of $89.95. If for any reason the system is not for you, call Dermitàge Customer Care toll–free at 800–886–8805 within your 30–day free–trial period to cancel. Then simply return the product (even if it is empty!) and you will NEVER be billed. No commitments, no hassles.
Plus, if you decide to keep the Dermitàge Anti–Aging System, you will receive FREE acceptance in Dermitàge Elite and will receive a fresh supply of the Dermitàge Anti–Aging System approximately every 60 days at the same low price of $89.95, a 22% discount. You can cancel by calling Dermitàge Customer Care. No risk, no obligation, cancel any time!
All California orders are subject to an 8.5% sales tax. Shipping and processing fees are non–refundable. All sales after the free–trial period are final. Returns may be subject to a re–stocking fee.
Please note that we cannot process packages marked “Return to Sender”. Returned packages require a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) number to ensure accurate processing. RMA numbers can be obtained by calling Dermitàge Customer Care at 800–886–8805.
They are already in the Rip Off Report. Just Google Dermitage Scam and see all the results that come up. Another thing I find interesting is that Dermitage.com is protected by privacy, meaning you can’t see who the company behind this really is. Apparently they don’t really want to be associated with this brand so they’re keeping it a secret.