The supplement market is ideal for exploiting consumers. This is why you’ll see more affiliate scams in the supplement industry than, say, the ice cream industry. An affiliate scam is the process of a person (the affiliate) trying to get you to buy someone else’s ineffective products at an insane markup so that they can receive a commission. (See our article: What is an Affiliate Scam? for more about how these work, including a real life example).
The current conditions of the supplement market create the perfect storm:
Growing obesity problem (pun intended)
Media glorifying the ideal body image
Lack of consumer education on proper diet and nutrition
Confusing science behind the supplements
Strong desire to look more attractive
This makes it easy for someone to formulate a cheap and ineffective product, throw together an over-the-top sales page, make some ridiculous claims that resonate with your deepest desires to be sexually appealing, impress you with some big scientific words and then take your credit card information so they can bill you $90 a month.
If you come across a product you are considering buying, and it seems “too good to be true”, it probably is. Here’s our checklist for making sure you don’t get ripped off by an affiliate scam.
1. The obvious first step - check reviews on SupplementReviews.com.
This might seem like a shameless plug, but it’s honestly a great resource. Use the search at the top of the page to see if the product is on SR. If it isn’t, ask about it on the forum. See what our unbiased experts think of the product. Nobody is allowed to spam their affiliate link on our site - so you don’t have to worry about a bogus endorsement because someone just wants to make a commission.
2. Examine any third-party reviews or news sites closely. They may be fake.
This is a very common affiliate practice. What better way to get traffic to your site and pitch a product than to write it a glowing review? Or a fake news release about it?
Here are a few ways to determine if you are on an affiliate site:
A title that lures you in: “WARNING! Do not buy Product X until you have read this”, then goes on to unabashedly promote said product.
FTC endorsement disclaimer at the bottom that reads something along the lines of “we may be compensated for our reviews”.
Lots of links to buy the product and big “BUY IT NOW” buttons scattered throughout the post.
Look at the link they are promoting. Does it contain a bunch of extra parameters? (Example: http://BuyProductX.com/index.php?AID=4321532&CID=2143523 - the “AID=4321532&CID=2143523” part might be their affiliate tracking code)
Fake news sites. “Chicago mom discovers one weird trick for fast belly fat loss” - Is this a real news story? The website might be “Action News 6” and look totally legit, but search around for some tiny print about it being an “advertorial” or “advertisement” - usually at the top.
3. Find out the affiliate commission on the product.
Do a quick google search for “Product X Affiliate Program”. You might be shocked to see that 50% or more of the price tag goes directly to the affiliate who brought you there.
4. Be critical of products with a huge price tag.
“You get what you pay for” doesn’t always hold true in the supplement industry. A product may claim that it is the only one of it’s kind with “patented” ingredients or technologies, but 99% of the time, you can find a perfectly suitable replacement for less than half the cost. Mike from PricePlow estimated an $87 product only contained $4 worth of ingredients.
5. Be cautious of free trials.
If you have to pay for a free trial, it isn’t free - even if you are just paying shipping and handling. If you are required to enter your credit card information anywhere, be sure to read ALL the fine print to see if you’re going to get charged every month until you waste an afternoon calling customer support and your bank to cancel/block the charges.
6. Watch out for marketing gimmicks.
A few things you’ll often see which are laughable:
Sales statements disguised as disclaimers: “Warning: this product is only for those serious about getting ripped fast”
“See if you qualify for a free trial” - you will always qualify no matter what you select. They just want you to think you are special.
Testimonials on their own sales page - this is about as biased as it gets.
“Hurry! Before time runs out” - they might even have a ticking countdown clock that pressures you to make an irrational decision. Don’t worry. That offer will be there as long as they want to take your money.
7. Does the company sell other products?
If a company is actually interested in repeat customers, they will typically offer an entire product line. They hope that you enjoy your first product enough to go back and purchase more from them. Many of the affiliate scams out there will only offer one product knowing that you’ll never want to buy anything from them again. There are plenty of exceptions to this rule, but if other warning signs exist, then pay attention to this one.
8. Is the product sold through a trusted, reputable retailer?
Check our Retailers section for the top-rated supplement retailers. These companies aren’t pushing affiliate scams, so you can buy confidently through one of them if the product is listed on their site.
Still not sure? Just ask!
We’d love to check out any products that you still aren’t sure on - post a new thread in the forum and we’ll let you know what we think!
March 26, 2015
What if we had a section where people could search for the product being marketed? They could find a factual based description of how the billing and such will work and what someone can expect getting into financially. We wouldn't comment on the actual product since we haven't taken it but we can read the fine print for people. This could be a useful tool for some people? Just brainstorming.