How to Spot Fake CBD Oil and Protect Yourself from Scammers
For all the good news about hemp-derived CBD oil products and their uses, “buyer beware” applies to them even more than usual. Some fly-by-night operations use dishonest and downright illegal marketing tactics to lure unsuspecting customers. Some companies prey on consumers by offering products that don’t contain the amount of CBD reported on the label or no CBD whatsoever. Others may use poor manufacturing methods that result in contamination.
In a digital age where social media sites and pervasive ad networks rarely vet advertisers, the Internet is a virtual minefield of scams.
But CBD users can protect themselves from fake CBD or potentially harmful products with relative ease. The solutions rarely cost more than a few moments of your time – a small sacrifice when your health is at stake.
But I know what you are asking, “How do I spot fake CBD products?”
Let’s look at a few of the most common problems and the best ways to address them.
Fraudulent CBD Advertising
The Problem: Tom Hanks, one of the world's most celebrated actors, called out a CBD company that used his image without his permission and fabricated an endorsement quote in its online advertisements. These types of deep fakes are a common way companies can lure in customers. A little digging on that company revealed a site offering a free sample. But many customers claim they were charged exorbitant amounts of money for products they never ordered.
It’s not the first time this has happened to Hanks, either. A nearly identical advertisement with a different company name appeared in early 2019.
This kind of illegal advertising is in many industries, not just the hemp industry, but it’s a serious problem because your health is on the line.
The Solution: First of all, some celebrities actively endorse CBD products. Team cbdMD is a great example. And while Team cbdMD athletes appear in advertisements, you’ll also see them talking about their favorite products on social media and in reputable news outlets.
If you see a celebrity endorsement for CBD products, a quick Internet search like “Bubba Watson cbdMD” will usually confirm or debunk the ad.
Recommendations from health, fitness, and sports professionals have value. They are authorities on those topics, after all. But there are other things to consider as well.
And if you ever click an ad that takes you to a page utilizing high-pressure sales tactics (e.g., limited supply, countdown clocks, buttons that say, “Hurry,” or “Rush My Order”), you’re probably dealing with a scammer.
If you feel uncomfortable on the site, you should move on. When it comes to your health and well-being, you need a company that educates and guides you, not one that pushes products on you like a used car salesman.
False CBD Claims
The Problem: It’s illegal for sellers to make claims about CBD as a cure, treatment, or tool to prevent disease. Even so, many companies do just that. Some CBD sellers make these claims out of carelessness or ignorance – an indicator that qualified professionals don’t operate the company. In other cases, companies that make medical claims may habitually prey on people with serious health issues.
Companies that make these snake oil-esque claims with CBD products may not be doing it out of malicious intent. It should show you that they have not done all the research necessary and that you should find another company.
The Solution: If you see a company making claims about how their CBD products can treat or prevent diseases, this is a red flag, and you should move on immediately.
Instead of looking for any health issues you think CBD products can solve, you should look for quality manufacturing indicators. Keep an eye out for independent certifications, third-party lab testing, and sourcing transparency. All of these should be readily available on their website.
Sometimes, you’ll see companies speak about CBD in broad, generalized language. While that may not make for much of a sales pitch, it’s not a bad thing. It shows that the people behind the brand understand the law, which is incredibly important.
Fake, Mislabeled, or Contaminated CBD Products
The Problem: There are fake CBD oil products on the market that claim to contain CBD but provide little or no CBD at all. Sometimes, the label simply doesn’t match the contents closely enough – often a sign of poor sourcing and manufacturing methods.
Another concern for consumers: some sellers use confusing labels and product names. For instance, some brands use words like “hemp oil” side by side with a brand name that indicates the product contains CBD. Some claim outrageous amounts of hemp extract, like 100,000 mg, which is ludicrous. It’s all part of an unfortunate practice some use to sell products on major e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay.
By the way, neither Amazon nor eBay allows the sale of CBD.
Many of these fake CBD brands or mislabeled products do not contain CBD at all. Some even include illegal levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance in marijuana that causes intoxication. Others may falsely claim their products contain zero THC. The illegal levels of THC can cause you to fail a drug screen because they wanted to cut corners or mislabel their products.
Finally, poor hemp-growing conditions and cut-rate manufacturing methods can lead to contamination. For example, hemp plants are widely known for their hyperaccumulating properties. That means the plant tends to pull substantial amounts of chemical compounds from the soil in which it’s grown. So if the ground contains high levels of heavy metals (lead, for example, not Black Sabbath), pesticides, or microbes, the plant will contain significant amounts of those substances as well. This contamination can make products of this hemp unsafe to consume.
The Solution: Reputable CBD companies allow customers access to third-party lab results from independent laboratories, often referred to as Certificates of Analysis (CoA). These documents show exactly how much CBD is in the product. They also provide information on other cannabinoids and compounds in the final batch. The CoA should also indicate whether the product passed microbe, heavy metals, and chemical testing.
Company websites should make lab results easily available for inspection. Many labels feature a QR code that leads to that product’s batch tests when scanned.
Unfortunately, there are occasions where even CoA’s are doctored or otherwise manipulated. They will do this to lure people into getting their product thinking it was tested and is safe.
Once again, reputable news sources can help. Local news stations around the country have tested a wide range of brands and products for accuracy. Just bear in mind that the process of extracting CBD from hemp and formulation of CBD products at a large scale is in its infancy. As a result, slight inconsistencies in cannabinoid levels are common.
However, cbdMD's' Superior Broad Spectrum hemp extract formula, provides consistent cannabinoid levels across all product batches.
Other Helpful Hints for Avoiding Fake CBD Oil
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) Registration
GMP registration from an independent, accredited auditor proves that a company’s products are pure and properly made. GMP registration is a way to know for certain that you are not getting a fake CBD product.
Aside from the obvious benefits of using a product made by a company that follows GMP, the registration suggests that the company is committed to doing things right in general – from hemp sourcing to its distribution and marketing.
cbdMD earned GMP Registration for dietary supplements through NSF International in March 2020.
Independent Reviewers and Consumer Advocacy Organizations
First, it’s important to understand that bias often influences online reviews of CBD products and the companies that make them. Even fake CBD products can get positive reviews if some wheels are greased. Some websites receive a commission when they refer customers; you might see that their links include many random letter numbers in the URL. This type of weblink should let you know that something is up with the reviews, and they may not be fully truthful.
Some review sites are just fake. These fake CBD review sites can look convincing, but if anything seems fishy, trust your instincts. A trusted consumer advocacy group can be more helpful in your search for the best product.
Consumer advocacy groups like Digital Citizens Alliance can provide valuable information. They have investigative reports on a multitude of issues. You will be able to find all kinds of information detailing the quality of CBD products.
And the Better Business Bureau (BBB) provides important insight into how companies do business. Be on the lookout for companies that have a low rating. The poor rating will show that they do not care for their customers. When you are thinking about your health, you don’t want anything from a company that doesn’t care.
You can also see which CBD companies received warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for making illegal drug claims. These warning letters will detail what the companies have falsely claimed, arming you with more information to use on your search to find real and fake CBD products.
Talk with Customer Service Representatives
You can learn a lot by talking to a company’s customer support staff. If they provide accurate information and do not engage in high-pressure sales tactics, you’re less likely to run into problems down the road.
On the other hand, if you can’t find a CBD company’s customer service contact information, buying from them is risky. And if they’re difficult to contact, rude, pushy, outsourced, or providing information that’s different from their website, you may also encounter problems with their products.
Final Thoughts on Fake CBD Oil and Bad Practices
It may appear that the CBD market is overflowing with bad actors. It’s essential to know that there are reliable hemp-derived CBD products available to you. The information you gather sifting through all of these fake CBD products makes finding the best product for you easier in the future.
Your interest in CBD indicates you’re health-conscious. You likely read labels on food items carefully and research wellness products with great care. You don’t want any fake food, so why would you want to deal with fake CBD? If you apply the same standards towards making your choice of CBD products, you’ll likely find something that suits your individual needs.
But given the state of the emerging hemp-derived wellness market, you may need to do extra research. The best CBD product makers out there continue to evolve and innovate. So you may want to follow your favorite CBD brand on social media. By doing so, you’ll become aware of the latest advancements first and what celebrities are endorsing that brand.
Above all, information is your best friend when you’re looking for CBD oil for sale on the Internet or in stores. Without it, you’re flying blind. With all of this information on how to spot fake CBD oil, you’ll find the best product for you. Your health and well-being are worth the time it takes to find superior CBD products while avoiding fake CBD and online scams.
Grayson Beane contributed to this article.