November 11, 2009 | dentalproductsreport.com
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The dark side of whitening
A look inside the expensive scams that lure in many consumers looking online for whitening products.
by Noah Levine, Senior Editor
Numerous whitening products sold online have been determined to be a part of widespread whitening scams.
It’s not unusual for people to purchase everything from shoes to electronics to entertainment and even food online, but a rash of scam Web sites and products of dubious origins have turned online shopping for teeth whitening products into a classic case of buyer beware.
Ads on legitimate Web sites are leading customers to fake blogs and other Web sites touting the benefits of products with names like Ivory White or Dazzle Smile. When a visitor submits a credit card number to cover the cost of shipping for a free sample, he or she is unknowingly signed up for $70-$90 in monthly charges for future shipments, and often is hit with third-party charges for unwanted weight loss products or acai berry supplements.
The scams have been so pervasive that on Oct. 1 the Better Business Bureau issued a consumer warning about online whitening sellers. The BBB cautions people to beware of third party endorsements, always read the fine print, check out unknown companies with the BBB and file a complaint if you feel you’ve been the victim of a scam.
Exposing the scams
Of course to people deeply involved with teeth whitening products, the BBB warning was long overdue. Back in January Sasha Sienkiewicz published an article on his teethwhiteningreviews.com Web site exposing a wide range of dubious whitening brands.
Normally his site serves as a forum for consumers to share their reviews and comments on over-the-counter and dentists dispensed products, but when site users began to contact him about scam products, he put his Web development training to use and began tracking down the scam artists. It started with hundreds of complaints about a product called Celebrity Sexy Teeth Whitener, but the more he poked around the Web, the more fake sites and untrustworthy products he found to add to the list he compiled in his article. In total, he believes these scams involve “millions and millions” of dollars.
“It’s quite sophisticated how they set up these scams,” he said. “By using the Internet for this scam they’re able to reach a lot of people. I started to search around a little bit and I noticed they were everywhere in terms of advertising.”
Sienkiewicz said the scammers begin by reaching out to customers through ads on legitimate Web sites. These ads take advantage of services such as Google AdWords to pop up for users who have searched for whitening products through their browser. He soon found the ads lead users to phony blogs, news sites and even fraudulent review sites modeled after his own.
Once on a possible scam site, Sienkiewicz put his Web knowledge to use, checking out the source code for signs of fraud such as phony security Web site badges, “live chat help,” that is actually a “bot” set to deliver automated responses based on what a user types and supposedly independent blog sites housed on the same server as the product site.
“A lot of times these guys, technically they’re not so clever,” he said. Continued at The dark side of whitening
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