/ Scams

CBD oil scams: fraudulent celeb endorsements and fake shipping tracking

Fraudsters peddling health supplements are still using famous faces, such as Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden, to lure victims. Here’s how they’re now using fake courier websites.

We were recently contacted by a member of the public who decided to try a CBD supplement after seeing an advert online. But instead of charging £5 for a sample, the company took £198 from their account.

When challenged on that payment it apologised and said the standard-size product had already been shipped, but that the customer could return it for free for a full refund.

Six weeks later, it still hadn’t arrived.

Fake shipping trackers

According to the shipping tracker website there had been a ‘problem delivering it to the address’. The retailer then said it couldn’t help.

Something didn’t seem right, so the victim got in touch with Which? for help, explaining that the apparent endorsement of the product by Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden made her feel comfortable to make the purchase. The advert even appeared to show lots of positive reviews on Facebook.

At first glance the entire process looks legitimate: the company was responsive to the complaints and sent confirmation emails that included a link to track the ‘order’. But we found that the shipping ‘tracking’ website was a fake.

It had been cleverly designed to show a realistic timeline of the order, falsely reporting that it left a warehouse in California, USA, and travelled to the UK via air cargo, but then encountered an unexplained issue when being delivered.

This elaborate customer service experience disguised the scam. It’s probably hoped that victims give up and forget about their orders or write them off as being lost – we’ve heard from many victims of this very fraud. The company involved did not respond to our request for comment.

In this case, the victim used their debit card to pay, so they did benefit from some protection in the event of overcharging, using a process called chargeback. We advised that the victim contact their bank, which was familiar with this scam and fully refunded them within 24 hours.

Guide: how to spot a scam

Guide: how to get your money back after a scam

Fake celebrity endorsements

Fake adverts and news articles using celebrities’ photos without permission are rife online and often feature fake positive reviews.

Famous faces commonly used include entrepreneurs such as Dragons’ Den stars Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones. Martin Lewis has also frequently had his image used without permission.

We got in touch with Deborah Meaden to make her aware of this case. She thanked us for bringing it to her attention and said:

“With the growing sophistication of online fraud, it becomes increasingly important to carry out checks before parting with cash online. A quick Google search will often reveal the truth and all online advertising should be read set against the premise of “If it looks too good to be true then it probably is!”

Celebrities do endorse many brands, but online ads featuring well-known names, especially ones that are promoting ‘wonder’ products or get-rich-quick schemes, should be treated with caution.

Have you seen fake celebrity endorsements for CBD oil or other products? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

This is the text i submitted to my credit card as partof a dispute!:

I made an order for “CBD gummy bears” for what was supposed to be a special 3 bags for the price of two at £50
I made the purchase online on my iphone so unfortunately have scant supporting evidence.
When the screen cleared to show the “success” message I was shocked to see that I had actually been charged £198.78, and it was for a weight loss product, rather than as a joint pain relief product as I had originally been advised on screen, so I took a screen shot.
I also immediately ( at 13:37 on 21 October- screen shot attached) rang the number shown +447723802731 but was diverted to an American sounding company where I spoke to Gwenover, and asked her to cancel my transaction (I already smelled a rat)- she said she could not find me on her system.
I left it at that- though regularly checked my transactions at nationwide online banking
Today I saw a transaction for £198.78 in favour of LIVINGHEALTHT.COM so rang nationwide CC to cancel the payment. They said to fill in this form to raise a dispute
Since this, I have also googled “CBD gummy bears scam” which is widely reported eg in (this) which? blog

I had a very similar experience, never got the chance to go into a ‘basket’ to see what the actual order was, as soon as I clicked on continue, that was it, ordered. I never received a confirmation email, I checked Spam but nothing and also had altogether, £227.98 taken out of my bank. I contacted my bank and through chargeback had the £198. refunded and the bank somehow stopped a monthly charge of £29.99 being taken from my account. I made a report to the police and also Action Fraud and have report numbers. However, three weeks later a packet was delivered with all the products I didn’t actually order, inside. Nothing on the envelope to say where it came from, no delivery note inside. The packets of gummies have no information on them of who or where they were manufactured and the same for the CBD cream and capsules although it does say ‘made in USA’
I wouldn’t dare use any of it and would love to know what is actually in them. My bank says they can’t help me further and Action Fraud also claim that based on information currently available, it hasn’t been possible to identify a line of enquiry which a law enforcement organisation in the UK can pursue!

Betty says:
27 November 2021

I was also caught out with the CBD advert, believed it as they advertised celebrities endorsing the product , and like others I ordered a £5 trial bottle and was charged £198 which my bank (bank of Scotland) would not reimburse me. I’ve sent 2 e mails asking for a refund, and have received no reply. I spoke to the bank as I was worried i May be getting charged monthly , and they assured me they would make sure this would not happen.

Please check with your bank to make sure that no direct debits have been set up, Betty. They can be cancelled at any time. If you bank online you will be able to see any direct debits that are active. There is a direct debit guarantee scheme and you should be able to recover any payment you have not authorised.

Celebrities are the last people I would trust. They often endorse products simply to make money.

Indeed, and sometimes the ‘celebrities’ don’t even know they are doing it — their agents sign them up to endorsements and promotions without their prior involvement [although usually in a responsible way]. And, as the article above makes clear, many of the ‘celebrity’ endorsements for products advertised on social media are completely fake, ripping off the celebrities themselves by including their name or photograph without any authorisation whatsoever and damaging their ‘reputation’.

Ann Dean says:
29 November 2021

I have unwittingly fallen for this scam. My own fault wanted to try them for my arthritis. When I received yet another packet I checked my bank and they have taken £28.99 out for the last 2 months. Bank is going to stop further transactions but I want to send the goods back and get my money back. Bet that is not going to happen.

Paul Cotney says:
17 January 2022

The scam is still going on and people are still getting charged far too much and recurring charges every month

James Allison says:
22 March 2022

If you suffer a scam or disputed transaction. then file a case with Resolver, I have taken up 5 cases with them and won them all.