The CBD market has seen outstanding growth since 2018 when cannabidiol was legalized in the US.
The upside is that CBD is now ultra-easy to find online. The downside is that hot markets are like magnets to scammers.
Phony CBD companies are notorious for schemes like:
If you don’t know what to look for when you’re buying CBD online, it’s easy to fall into their traps. But don’t worry — you’re about to become a pro at swerving around their tactics.
In this guide, we’re calling out seven common signs of CBD scams so you can shop for CBD with confidence.
Reputable CBD companies go out of their way to offer high-quality CBD products. Fraudsters trying to leverage the good reputation of legitimate brands often create fake brand names that are very similar. What you get from these copycats won’t be anything like what you get from the authentic company.
These wannabes might catch you when you make a typo when entering a website URL. Or when you’re searching for a specific brand online.
For example, if you forgot the “Craft” in Pure Craft CBD, you could end up on a very non-legit website for Pure CBD, CBD Pure, or some such variation.
Check and double-check brand name spelling.
If a friend recommends a CBD brand, ask them to send you the link to their website so you don’t have to go searching and potentially land on the wrong page.
You can also look out for weirdness on their website. Which brings us to the next red flag…
Anyone can make a website these days — and that might not be such a good thing.
Fraudulent CBD companies are known for having unsecured websites that pressure you into handing over your private information, including your credit card info. And they tend to not have the best intentions in terms of privacy, product quality, and transparency.
Plus, on unsecured websites, your info is more likely to be subject to hackers and schemers on the world wide web.
So, what makes a website fishy? We’re so glad you asked.
Signs of a non-legit website include:
Offers on a website that sound too good to be true are also red flags. So even if a site looks good, you might wanna keep the next clue in mind.
Pro tip: In addition to the website, verify that the company has other, corroborating presence in the market. Check reviews, read their blog articles, and scope out their social media activity. You can even reach out to the company to see how they handle your questions.
The free trial scam usually involves you paying a small fee for shipping in exchange for a CBD product. But the charges don’t end there. This is just the beginning of monthly fees for the subscription you unknowingly signed up for. Once you’ve signed up, it can be difficult to contact the seller to cancel. It’s a bait-and-hidden-hook sitch.
Fake companies might send you a product, which may be incredibly poor quality or contain no CBD at all. They may also just take your $ and run.
To be clear, reputable CBD companies might offer free samples (and charge to ship these to you) and subscriptions. BUT, they’ll always make it obvious what you’re opting into. Additionally, legit sellers will have hassle-free subscription programs that don’t bury the terms in the fine print. Everything’s up-front and above board.
Before you hand over your credit card info, be sure to read all of the words on any pages you come across, including the teeny-tiny words (the fine print).
Also look into how you would go about contacting the company if you want to cancel, or what you need to do if you want to skip an order. For example, at Pure Craft, we make it easy for you to manage your subscription through your account.
The Federal Trade Commission prohibits deceptive advertising practices. But that doesn’t stop scammy CBD operations.
Using testimonials from doctors and healthcare pros or images and videos of people who look like them is a common marketing tactic for fake CBD companies.
Although endorsing products isn’t prohibited by the American Medical Association, it is frowned upon in many cases. The chance of words of praise about a CBD company coming from an MD, NP, RN, RD, or anyone with real credentials is slim.
If you see a video or written review or testimonial from a qualified healthcare professional, assume it’s a fake. Even if it’s not, it’s likely a paid endorsement — which isn’t really an endorsement at all.
The same goes for images of people in scrubs with stethoscopes around their necks or lab coats on. Anyone can drum up these photos with a quick web search. Avoid websites that use them.
Here’s another one that falls into the “too good to be true” category. But unless you know at least a bit about CBD, you might not know which claims are bogus.
Here are the words and phrases to watch out for:
Trustworthy companies do their homework to make sure they adhere to rules and regulations for marketing their products. They back up their claims with research and certifications.
Play it safe and move on from any website or marketing materials that use wishy-washy or misleading statements, include illegal claims, or don’t contain the required disclaimer.
Sure, CBD is popular. But it isn’t being featured on USA Today, Oprah, and Shark Tank.
The Shark Tank scam is one of the more popular ones, probably because a lot of up-and-coming businesses get their start on the show. Brands that gain funding through the show often become consumer favorites.
Simply being on shows like Shark Tank makes a biz seem more legitimate. Naturally, scammers want the illusion of authority the “as seen on...” claim creates.
To be clear, it’s normal for companies to list sources where they’ve been featured on their website. If a company has logos showcasing this, click the logos to see where it takes you.
If it goes nowhere, it’s probably fake.
Also, look for the words around the logos. For example, it might say “The Benefits Of CBD Have Been Seen On…” and list some sources. That says nothing about the brand, only about CBD in general. Basically, this is a gimmick used to deceive shoppers.
“Direct sales” is a nice way of saying “multi-level marketing scheme” or MLM.
And MLM is a nice way of saying this is a company that sells low-quality products to people and expects them to sell to their friends, families, and baristas, then come back and buy more products to do it all over again. We all have (or have been) that friend…
They’re also sometimes called pyramid schemes because the vast majority of people who buy into them end up losing money. While they make up the bottom bulk of the pyramid, a small percentage at the tippy-top of the pyramid do okay or very well.
MLMs tend to use language that pressures you into signing up, then they blame your lack of commitment when you don’t crush outrageous sales goals. These toxic approaches are major red flags in the CBD space and in general.
There are two ways a CBD pyramid scheme might be pitched to you.
Either way, look out for tactics that make you feel pressured or invitations to be a brand ambassador. There is a tiny chance that you could get a good product or earn big, but the fact is, the odds are not in your favor.
Sketchy sellers and trustworthy retailers alike sell hemp oil. While not technically always a scam, this might mislead you if you don’t know the difference between the two. And it’s not uncommon for dubious dealers to market a hemp oil product as a CBD oil product — they’re preying on consumer ignorance.
CBD is made from hemp, but hemp oil and CBD oil are not the same.
Now that you know the difference between hemp oil and CBD oil, you can scope out products to make sure you know what you’re getting. Here’s what to look for.
If it’s not clear after completing these steps, you’re probably looking at a hemp seed oil product and not CBD oil.
[INSERT IMAGE OF SOMEONE HOLDING A PC PRODUCT & POINTING TO WHERE IT SAYS CBD OIL IN THE INGREDIENTS LIST or OF SOMEONE LOOKING AT A COA & POINTING TO THE CBD CONTENT?]
Shopping for CBD requires some amount of diligence on your part as a consumer. With so much smoke and mirrors in the CBD space, it’s important to educate yourself.
Use this guide as a general checklist, but remember that scammers are committed to tapping into the thriving CBD market. If you run into things we didn’t cover that make you go “hmmmm…,” go with your gut.
So, don’t let a few bad apples give CBD or the vast majority of CBD businesses a bad name. Once you know what to look for, you’ll see there are plenty of real, high-caliber CBD products and retailers.
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