Monica Vinader

‘Free Sample’? How To Deal With Internet Beauty Scams

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'Free Sample'? How To Deal With Internet Beauty Scams
‘Free Sample’? How To Deal With Internet Beauty Scams

Today at 8 am, I received a phone call from a friend: ‘I urgently need to pick your legal brain! I just got a letter from a debt collector asking for £100 for some free skincare samples that I ordered online through a Facebook ad…’ After calming her down I asked her to explain what happened and forward the letter to me. It turns out she’d fallen victim to an internet beauty scam.

As you’ve probably guessed, this article isn’t about beauty per se, but how to shop safely for your beauty products online; and how to deal with the ‘free sample’ scams. Perhaps, I’m writing it because the lawyer in me seeks justice for those of you who’ve been tricked!

What do Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie And Goldman Reeves Ltd Have In Common?

Over the past few months, there’s been a Facebook post circulating with this tag-line. “Did Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt Get A Divorce Because Of A Fight Over Their Multi-million Dollar Anti-Aging Wrinkle Cream Company?” In case you’re wondering, the answer is NO! Angelina Jolie doesn’t own a cosmetic company and I’m pretty sure their divorce was for different reasons. But the mysterious ‘Goldman Reeves Ltd’ and the Cypriot registered ‘Equinox’, do!

I can see how some of you would be interested to read about the divorce of two high profile beautiful people. Especially, one that claims to reveal a ‘long kept celebrity anti-ageing beauty secret’.

The article starts by describing Brad and Angelina’s custody battle over their children. So it seems legitimate. But then it goes on to talk about a miracle anti-ageing cream that Angelina has apparently been researching for two years. According to the article, until now this cream has been one of ‘Hollywood’s Best Kept Secrets’ as it has a magical ability to remove 98.9% of your wrinkles. Ha!?! I’ll take a life time supply please!

The article includes dermatology related symbols, which look credible, but in fact mean nothing. It also features an unrelated GMA video that has nothing to do with the product or Angelina; and of course, links that redirect you to a website for purchasing your ‘free’ product sample for £4.95 (postage fee). £4.95 doesn’t seem a lot to pay, after all you’re getting a free sample of the magical Angelina Jolie cream! And that’s where the small print comes in. Once you purchase your ‘free’ sample, you automatically agree to a ‘refill’ membership and your card is charged £69.87 every 30 days until you cancel. Guess what happens next? You can’t get through to the company to cancel. Moreover, you receive your free sample with a letter that says if you don’t return the product within 15 days to Cyprus, they will charge the full amount to your card.

Steps You Can Take To Avoid Scams

At this point, you’re probably asking yourself: how can this be legal? Well, this type of arrangement is completely legal. It’s most commonly used to bill customers for regular subscriptions such as gym membership or magazines subscriptions. By handing over your debit card/bank details and ticking the terms and conditions box, you unwittingly authorize regular payments.

So if you need to purchase beauty products online from a company you’re not familiar with, I suggest you do the following:

  1. Read the small print;
  2. Watch out for false advertising; Avoid advertising campaigns with slogans like ‘Hollywood’s Best Kept Secret’ or ‘Better Than Botox’ – as they saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is;
  3. Research the company and read product reviews;
  4. Read the comments on the Facebook post;
  5. If you’ve already purchased a product, cancel your credit card and inform your bank straight away. Under the 2009 Payment Services Regulation, you can ask your bank to cancel a continuous payment authority immediately. You can do this without notifying the company involved;
  6. Report the fraud to the UK’s National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre;
How To Get Your Money Back

If you’re lucky after the zillionth try, you may be able to reach the company and demand a refund. Most people are not so lucky. If you finally manage to get through, the likely outcome will be that the customer service representative asks you to send the unopened product back; trick you into another scam; or simply refuse the refund.

You can try to get your money back from the bank. However, by law, you can only get your money back, by proving that you didn’t authorize the payment, or if you have paid for services you haven’t received or something you haven’t agreed to. And since you agreed to the terms and conditions when you signed-up, and then willingly handed over your credit card details, you can say goodbye to your money.

Debt Collection Letter

Thankfully, right after purchasing the product, my friend realized she had been scammed and quickly cancelled her credit card. However, the fraudsters decided to take it a step further by threatening her with legal action if she didn’t pay-up in full, straight away. Hence, she received the debt collection letter. They even used the scales of justice symbol next to the company name, to make it look more official and convincing.

Most people tend to panic when they see the words ‘debt collection’ and will pay straight away to avoid further legal fees. And that is exactly what fraudsters want you to do.

How To Check If A Debt Collector Letter Is Genuine?

In the UK, the FCA regulates all consumer credit services. This means that firms needs prior FCA authorization to act as a debt collector. You can check if a firm has this authorization on the FCA website or by calling their consumer helpline. When my friend called me, I went straight to the FCA webste. I searched for culprit company’s name ‘Goldman Reeves.’ Success! What came up was ‘We believe that Goldman Reeves Ltd has been providing financial services or products in the UK without our authorization…” – Case closed!

My Beauty Insider says

This is just one example of ‘free’ skincare product samples fraud. You might have come across other companies doing the same. And Hampton Naturals, Derma Hydrate, Pristine, Nuvalift, Absolute Rejuven and Absolute Derma are just a few other examples – there are too many to list them all!

As the anti-aging beauty market continues to explode with unprecedented growth, these scams snare thousands of women every year. So, please be sensible and AVOID FREE TRIALS – nothing great in life comes free. Purchase beauty products from reputable distributors. At the end of the day, it’s not just about money, it’s also about the quality of the product.


⇒ Disclaimer: The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from the author nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
Written by

I'm a London based beauty researcher who is continuously on the hunt for the preventative and corrective skincare products and treatments and award-winning spas around the globe.

  • Anna says:

    This is great! Thanks!

  • Deborah J says:

    Always read the small print… I stupidly sent for my ‘trial’ and luckily something came up on line that alerted me to the scam … I received the cream … never received a confirmation email with order number on. Rang my credit card company who gave me the companies number .. apparently UK based but clearly not when I telephoned. Told them trial no good for me as I had an allergic reaction … I could only cancel if I sent goods back to Cyprus had to pay for P&P then a restocking fee ???? I questioned why would you restock an opened/used cream??? Only way I could get out of it was paying them a further £10.95 and not returning the goods ….. Never again!! Cannot believe I have been dumb enough to be had!! Company down on credit card statement as Beauty Level, Website …. avoid at all costs!!!

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A Few Words From The Founder & Editor-In-Chief

My Beauty Insider a one-stop shop for information on the best preventative and corrective skincare products and treatments, and award-winning spas around the globe. Our mission is to inform you of the latest innovations in the beauty industry and provide an honest opinion based on personal experience. Finally, our readers input is invaluable to us - so please leave comments and let us know if there is any particular product or treatment you would like to know about! Maria M.

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