Over the past few months, and especially over the past week, I’ve been asked about various internet sites that claim to sell products that affect aging or age-related diseases. In general, the more extravagant the claims, the less likely the claimed outcome. Unfortunately, even the least-credible websites attract sales, which is why they continue. As […]
Tip-Offs to Rip-Offs?
Over the past few months, and especially over the past week, I’ve been asked about various internet sites that claim to sell products that affect aging or age-related diseases. In general, the more extravagant the claims, the less likely the claimed outcome. Unfortunately, even the least-credible websites attract sales, which is why they continue. As a parallel case, the classic “Nigerian Bank” scam succeeds because there is always someone naïve enough to believe it. I confess that even when something sounds too-good-to-be-true, I’ve occasionally been tempted to believe it, although I have an absolutely reliable test of credibility. I ask myself if I would I be willing to run it past my wife. That one question has saved me several times, as I can picture the look she would give me if I tried to explain why this one time might be different and this one time it might not be a scam. I can clearly picture the way she would lower her chin and look at me from under her brows as she frowns at my stupidity. I shiver even thinking of it. However, for those of you without a spouse or partner who has the ability to expose blatant foolishness, I offer you the following rules instead.
The credibility of any product is often clearly signaled by the website or advertisement itself. The following warning signals are inversely related to credibility and should tell you that you’re looking at snake oil rather than a credible product. The more of these in the advertisement, the less likely that it works and the more likely it is that you would be better off flushing your money down the drain. Caveat emptor. Here are the warning signals to live by:
- Multiple exclamation points.
- Multiple fonts.
- Multiple font sizes.
- Multiple font colors.
- Multiple underlined, bolded, or italicized words.
- Multiple words entirely in capital letters.
- Scientific or medical jargon. The size (length or number of web pages or scroll-downs) of the advertisement.
- The number of movie or media stars whose names appear in the website (especially claims about Oprah Winfrey, Doctor Oz, etc.).
- The number of universities whose names appear in the website (without citing data).
- The number of times the names of Nobel prize winners appear in the website (without citing data).
- The number of times the names of US presidents appear in the website.
- The number of Fortune 500 firms or their CEO’s whose names appear in the website, for example: Amazon, Microsoft, PayPal, Apple, Google, Yahoo, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc.
- The number of names of scientific journals dropped into the text without citing data, for example: British Medical Journal, Science, New Scientist, Nature, Rejuvenation Research, JAMA, or New England Journal of Medicine.
- Pictures of “regular people” (with quotes from them) who purportedly use the product.
- Numerical or factual errors, grammatical errors, and misspellings.
In addition, untrustworthy websites and advertisements are prone to use particular words or phrases. The use of any one of these might be reasonable, but the more of these words or phrases you find, the less you should be reading (let alone acting upon) the advertisement. Give one point to every use of the following words or phrases. Any product advertisement that has more than five points is almost certainly a scam, pure and simple. Go elsewhere. Here’s the list to watch out for:
- actually getting younger, age-defying, all I ask you to pay, all you have to do is click the button below, amazing, are you ready, astonishing, back in time, believe me, best-selling, billionaire, blown away, breakthrough, can you believe it, completely indistinguishable, completely safe, confidential source(s), controversial, don’t let this opportunity pass you by, dramatic, elegant, elite athletes, elusive, excitement, exciting, exclusive, famous, first glimmer of hope, formula, fountain of youth, game-changer, greatest discovery, groundbreaking, historic, Hollywood, holy grail, I can’t promise you, I encourage you to act now, I guarantee you’ll notice the difference, I’d like to send you, I’m giving it away, I’ve reserved in your name, if you act while quantities last, imagine (or imagine if), incredible, insanely good, instant, irrefutable, it’s true, jaw-dropping, keep it a secret, lab-tested formula, latest discovery, legendary, make you young again, maybe you’ve heard of it before, mega-rich, million-dollar, miracle, natural, naturally, next generation, Nobel-prize winning, only one tiny pill, only the start, pay for it later, picture this, powerful, practically everyone, privileged, profound, renowned, research-proven, rich (or richest), risk-free, rushed to your door, secret, secretive, shock, shocking, shock waves, Silicon Valley, single most important, Soviet athletes, special offer, specifically designed, spectacular, spellbound, staggering, stunning, supercharge, supernutrient, taking away all the risk, that’s one…two…three different, the time is now, there’s no catch, thousands of our customers, thrilled, time machine, top-scientists, unbelievable, vibrant, we don’t cut corners, well-established fact, what would you give to, what your doctor didn’t tell you, what your doctor won’t tell you, will work for you, with no risk or obligation whatsoever, without risking a penny, world-famous, would you believe me, you pay nothing today, you’ll be one of the lucky few, you’ll rest easy knowing, you’ll swear, etc.