Gouged by Garcinia Cambogia weight-loss pills

Hmm, where to start?  There are so many Garcinia scams.

NutritionForest.com looks like a particularly sleazy web site, so I’ll do them.  Contact information:

16192 Coastal Highway, Lewes, DE 19958
718 618 9649

There may be nothing illegal or wrong with the following business practices. But they suggest that the seller is not to be trusted. I’m using my Scam-O-Meter scoring system; -1 means true (bad), +1 means false (good), and 0 means undetermined. I penalize the seller for statements made by shills.

Ridiculous claims: +1.  None found.

Suspicious location: -1.  16192 Coastal Highway, Lewes, DE 19958 is a real building.   But it’s not the building pictured in Nutrition Forest’s website.  That building is a First Inland Logistics industrial warehouse in Moreno Valley, CA.  hq

What a crowded little house this must be.  Other businesses here include:

  • DelawareInc.com
  • Harvard Business Services
  • Nativx
  • CloudBees
  • Wenton Packaging
  • AM Projects
  • Alignable
  • Digital Altitude Advertising
  • Amenfis
  • BuyGreen
  • Duffy Ventures
  • John Snow Labs
  • Firstchoice Group America
  • Teksun IT Solutions

Onerous terms: -1

  • guaranteeThe “100% satisfaction guarantee” applies only if you buy two or more bottles of the same product.  If you only buy one bottle, you can’t return it.
  • You have to return the bottle in “Saleable condition,” which seems to imply that you can’t have opened it.
  • Your refund won’t include the shipping charge.
  • They don’t guarantee that the pills are fit for any use; nor that anything they say is true.

Ads, spam, robocalls: 0.  Nutrition Forest’s Privacy Policy is circuitous and incomplete.  Nutrition Forest will beam ads at you.  But you have to opt in to get their newsletter.  Reading between the lines, it seems that they’ll share your personal information with “affiliated” companies.  (See “Suspicious location” section above.)

Lying and deception: -1

Nutrition Forest arranged for Google search results to include the claim that Garcinia Cambogia is FDA approved.  It isn’t.  “Dietary supplements are not FDA-approved,” says the FDA.


On their web site, they dance around this claim, stating that their Garcinia laboratory is registered with and inspected by the FDA.  They use the FDA logo, then in the small-type disclaimers admit that the product is not FDA-approved.fda2

Obfuscation: +1.  None found.

Phony reviews: +1.  None found.

Crummy product: -1.  The FDA says:

And if you’re about to take what you think of as “natural” dietary supplements, such as bee pollen or Garcinia cambogia, you should be aware that FDA has found some of these products also contain hidden active ingredients contained in prescription drugs.

“The only natural way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in,” says James P. Smith, M.D. That means a combination of healthful eating and physical activity.

Overpriced: -1.  Nutrition Forest prices a 60-capsule bottle at $39, or about $0.65 per capsule.  Amazon offers a different brand of Garcinia Cambogia for $16 for a 180-capsule bottle.  That’s about $0.09 per capsule — 86% less than Nutrition Forest.  Nutrition Forest claims that only their product is pure; remember their fake office building picture as you consider whether to believe them.

75% discount: +1.  False.

Total score; -1

Unauthorized charges: Nutrition Forest doesn’t have an “auto-ship” service; so there’s no danger of getting duped into a subscription.  Nutrition Forest accepts PayPal.

Conclusion: I agree with the FDA.  To lose weight, eat less and exercise more.


laughI particularly enjoyed “About Us:” “We believe that health is very important for any individual. When people are physically fit, they are always full of beans. They always enjoy their life and love to do things that they like to do but when they are not healthy or down, they become gloomy and get disappointed with their life. Their all spirits and enthusiasm vanish. …”


Why clipping a lens to your phone can’t turn it into a great camera

Clip-on phone lenses are the bait for a lot of web scams.  Here’s why you shouldn’t bite.

  • It’s risky to get involved with a web scammer.  Also, regardless of their sales pitch, the lenses they offer aren’t very good.
  • A camera (even the one in your smart phone) has several parts whose quality is crucial to catching a high-quality image.  The lens is just one of these parts.  
  • Getting a great camera (including magically turning your phone into a great camera) won’t make you a great photographer.  Just as buying a master’s palette and brushes wouldn’t make you a great painter.  Photography is an art.

Beware of phone lens web scams

A scammer is someone who takes your money by trickery or theft.  Keep in mind that the scam is not in the product; it’s in the way it’s sold.  A good product can be the bait in a scam; however, I’ve yet to see an online phone lens offering in which the lens was better than mediocre.  Getting involved with a web scammer poses a risk of theft from your credit card account.  Here are some phone lens scams that I’ve researched:

How a digital camera (even the one in your phone) works

(Real photographers, please forgive me for my limited mastery of camera technology.). I found this nice diagram of a SLR (single-lens reflex) camera on ScenicFramer.com .  The camera in your phone works basically the same way.


What’s going on here:

  1. Some light from the subject of the photograph enters from the left.  The light is focused by lens elements.  Also, the aperture (an adjustable “valve” built into the lens) positions and throttles the light beam.
  2. The light beam is diverted to a viewfinder by a mirror and prism arrangement.  Some high-end cameras have a mirrorless design.  Your phone solves the problem of both putting up an image on the viewfinder (the phone’s screen) and saving it by forwarding the image from the sensor to the screen.
  3. When the photographer presses the shutter button, the mirror lifts out of the way; the shutter opens for a brief moment to let the light beam shine on the sensor.  Then the shutter closes and the mirror moves back into place.  In the case of a phone, an electrical shutter function controls the exposure of the sensor to the light.
  4. The sensor is the digital equivalent of film; its job is to capture the image.  Then the camera copies the image to memory, such as an SD memory card.

Clipping a lens to your phone doesn’t have much effect on how its camera works

Imagine clipping an external lens to the outside of the lens barrel at the left end of the diagram.  Hopefully this thought will stimulate suspicion of the scammers’ claims about making a phone outperform a $4,000 DSLR (digital SLR).  Let’s take a closer look at some of these parts.

  1. If you clip an external lens over the camera’s lens, the light beam goes thru both lenses.  So, the added lens has no effect on the quality of the built-in lens.  Nor does it affect the built-in lens’ aperture.  So you can’t improve the camera’s low-light performance by clipping on a lens.
  2. Clipping a lens to the camera doesn’t affect the way it shares the light beam between the viewfinder and the sensor.
  3. The shutter is a crucial part of the camera.  The faster it can open and close, the sharper the captured image.  The shutter must also expose every part of the sensor to exactly the same amount of light throughout its cycle of opening and closing.  Clipping on a lens doesn’t affect the quality of your camera’s shutter.
  4. The sensor is also a crucial part of the camera.  The larger and more sophisticated the sensor is, the more precise and detailed the captured image can be.  Another measure of camera quality is the speed with which it can copy a captured image from the sensor to memory, because you can’t take another picture while this is going on.  Clipping on a lens doesn’t affect the quality of your camera’s sensor.

Okay, now for the good news.  Modern smart-phones already have lenses, shutters and sensors that are about the quality of an entry-level camera — quite good enough to take pictures you’ll be proud to show off, and to enable you to learn about the art of photography.

Taken with an unmodified iPhone 6.

Getting a better camera won’t make you a better photographer

A good photographer has mastery of his camera’s features and functions, skill in image composition, some degree of control over lighting, and the dedication to create or go to interesting subjects.  Clipping on a lens doesn’t affect any of these attributes.

Certainly, adding a good quality lens to a phone can give a photographer more flexibility over his composition.  And it can be a fun thing for anybody to do.  But a good quality phone lens costs about as much as an entry-level camera that will probably give better results.  If you still want to try a phone lens, TechRadar has posted a review of the best ones available.

Instead, consider taking some photography classes at your local community college.  (Borrowing a real camera for these would be a good idea.). If you have a camera that you don’t know how to use, a one-day hands-on class in camera basics will pierce the mystery.   From there you’ll see the way to go as far in the art of photography as you want to go.

“Marriott Rewards Center” robocalls are phishing

(July 24, 2017) After weeks of being plagued by robocalls from “Elizabeth” at the Marriott Rewards Center offering me a free stay at a Marriott resort, I wrote a letter to CEO Bill Marriott to complain.

I received a prompt response, and learned that:

  • These calls are not from Marriott
  • They’re a phishing scam to steal peoples’ identities

Here’s the response:

Thanks for writing Mr. Marriott about the frustrating telephone calls you have received.  Your letter has been referred to me for a response.  Guest feedback is very important to us! 

I’m very sorry this issue has taken up your valuable time.  The calls you have received were not placed by an authorized representative of Marriott, nor has Marriott shared your personal information with these fraudulent callers.  Marriott International has been made aware of a series of fraudulent telephone calls being made in different parts of the world where the caller offers a complimentary stay at a Marriott hotel to entice the person taking the call to listen to a sales pitch unrelated to Marriott or provide personally identifiable information.

 Efforts have been made to stop this misrepresentation of our brand.  Similar to your experience, the calls often appear to be placed from different telephone numbers.  We have learned that the callers are utilizing a practice, commonly referred to as “spoofing,” to misrepresent the telephone number from which the call was actually placed.  Here is a link to an article detailing the practice and recent efforts by the FCC to intervene:  https://consumerist.com/2017/06/22/robocall-scammer-faces-120m-fine-for-impersonating-tripadvisor-marriott-expedia/

 I assure you that Marriott is committed to protecting your privacy and the personal information you entrust to us.  Thank you for taking the time to ask us about the legitimacy of these calls and allowing us to clarify that they are not supported by Marriott.

Should you have any questions or wish to discuss this matter personally, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I can be reached at the telephone number below between 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM Eastern time, Monday through Friday

 Warm Regards,

Sara Terkelsen
Corporate Liaison, Mr. Marriott‘s Office

Hung up by Virtue Shop’s anti-snore strap

So I placed this order weeks back and now I email to get progress and get no response, I leave messages on their site and nothing. … This clearly is a scam and unfortunately you see all the poor suckers who keep placing orders.

So writes Nick from South Africa.  When Nick looks at Virtue Shop‘s refund terms (see “Onerous Terms” section below) he’s going to be even more upset.  Contact information:


July 27, 2017; There may be nothing illegal or wrong with the following business practices. But they suggest that the seller is not to be trusted. I’m using my Scam-O-Meter scoring system; -1 means true (bad), +1 means false (good), and 0 means undetermined. I penalize the seller for statements made by shills.

Ridiculous claims: 0.  I’m not qualified to evaluate this product on a medical basis.  But it looks like Virtue Shop confuses the symptom of snoring with the disease of sleep apnea.  I did find some information that leads me to doubt that the chin strap is a sure cure.  This WebMD article explains that there are two types of sleep apnea.  Preventing snoring seems unlikely to counteract central sleep apnea, because its cause is in the brain’s respiratory control center.

Suspicious location: -1.  Virtue Shop’s web site doesn’t reveal its location.  ScamAdvisor says “Site is Canada-based, but real location is being hidden,” listing an anonymous Privacy Inc. client identifier number as Virtue Shop’s owner.  The Terms of Service say that the governing law is that of Dublin, Ireland.

Onerous terms: -1

  • For a refund, you have to return the strap within 14 days from your ordernot from the date you receive it.  Virtue Shop advises, “Allow up to 3 – 4 weeks for delivery.”
  • For a refund, you have to return the product unused in its original package.
  • Some(?) health and personal care items can’t be returned.
  • Marked-down items can’t be returned.  Notice that the strap is marked down.
  • You have to pay the shipping on items you return.  (Maybe to Ireland!)
  • They don’t guarantee that the strap will meet your expectations; nor that anything they say is true.

Ads, spam, robocalls: +1.  If you opt in, they’ll email you advertising.  You can opt out.

guaranteeLying and deception: -1.  Virtue Shop advertises a 90-day money back guarantee.  But their Return Policy states that the guarantee period is only 14 days.

Obfuscation: -1.

  • A count-down timer and diminishing number of items in stock gives the impression that you don’t have time to make a careful decision.
  • pressureBoxes with messages claiming that other people are buying up the products keep overlaying the page.

Phony reviews: -1.  Testimonials by people with no last names are featured on-site.

Crummy product: +1.  Although Amazon doesn’t carry Virtue Shop, they offer a product that sure looks the same.  It’s rated 4.3 stars by thousands of customers.

Overpriced: +1.  Virtue Shop is asking $29.  Amazon’s very similar product is marked $30.

75% discount: -1.  They don’t say so.  But ($135-$29) / $135 works out to a 78% markdown.

Total score; -3

Unauthorized charges: I found no reports of this.  The “Guaranteed Safe Checkout” omits PayPal as an accepted form of payment.  That’s not a good sign, even if you don’t intend to use PayPal.

Conclusion:  The product seems worth trying as a first step.  But get it from Amazon.

Sucked in by Secret Serums

I was given a free offer as a reward of 2 skin serums: My Instant Line Filler, My Secret Anti-Aging Treatment  There was no cost at all, except for shipping/handling.  Today, 7/15/17, I have a pending amount in my account for $79.99 and I have no idea what it’s about. …

The quote above is from RipoffReport.com.  It’s typical of many complaints about Secret Serums from unwary and inattentive online shoppers.  If you order “free trial” samples, they will enroll you in their autoship service and start billing you monthly.

This isn’t a good deal.  But after a careful reading of the web site I saw no deception involved.  Secret Serums explains exactly what they’re going to do in plain sight, several times.  To make an order, you even have to check a box showing that you read and agree to the terms.  All the same, a lot of people fall into their trap.

On July 15, 2017, let’s get under the skin of SecretSerums.com .  Contact information (also see “Suspicious Location” below):

Phone: 1 (800) 474-8947
Email: customerservice@secretserums.com

There may be nothing illegal or wrong with the following business practices. But they suggest that the seller is not to be trusted. I’m using my Scam-O-Meter scoring system; -1 means true, +1 means false, and 0 means undetermined. I penalize the seller for statements made by shills.

Ridiculous claims: +1.  A lot of stretchers, but I don’t see anything ridiculous claimed here.

Suspicious location: -1.  I can’t find “41 Canal Street, Lewiston, ME 04240” with Google Maps.  It looks like Lewiston follows the convention of putting odd house-numbers on the west side of a north-south street.  And the west side of Canal Street is a canal.  Google Maps shows a tree at this location as Accessories Unlimited, Inc.  hq

Despite the lack of a building, a lot of dubious-looking businesses use this address:

  • Natural Health Network
  • Great Lakes Fulfillment Services
  • Allen Manufacturing Inc.
  • Veloura International
  • Bella Genix
  • Bio Geniste
  • AU Essentials
  • NitroMxs
  • Fancy Stitchers
  • Outsource Works
  • HTRush
  • NewVega Lash
  • Maine Wool and Design Corp.
  • ZQuiet Professional

Onerous terms: -1

  • Your “free trial” begins on the day you place your ordernot on the day you receive it.
  • It ends on the 14th day; you must call by this day to cancel your subscription.  The 15th day seems pointless, but in effect it acts as a trap for people who put off canceling until what they think is the last day.
  • At the end of your “free trial” Secret Serums will charge you $85 for each of your “free” samples.  Then they will start sending and charging you for serums every month.
  • Although they advertise a “Good to the last drop guarantee,” you can only return products if they are unopened.  You can’t return your “free trial” sample at all.
  • SecretSerums won’t refund the shipping and processing portion of your payment.

Ads, spam, robocalls: -1

  • They’ll beam ads at you and spam you.  You can unsubscribe from particular mailing lists.
  • They’ll share your data with associated companies that will do the same.
  • If they sell their business, your data is part of the deal.

Lying and deception: +1. None found, despite many complaints about unauthorized charges.  The free trial selection page includes a summary of the autoship-related Terms and Conditions; the order form page explains the autoship subscription policy two more times.

Obfuscation: +1.  None found.

Phony reviews: -1.  True, but to get to the shills you’ll have to scroll past numerous warnings to stay away from this company.  I particularly enjoyed Health and Beauty Care – Expert Reviews, which advises “This way it offers you hydrated and healthy skin that no doubt would turn heads, making you feel special.

Crummy product: 0.  I don’t know how to evaluate these products.  Keep in mind that a scam can involve a good product.

Overpriced: 0.  Secret Serums asks $85 for an ounce of line filler.  Amazon offers Secret Serums line filler for $80/ounce.  Amazon also offers Revlon line filler for $9 for .41 ounce.  That’s $22 per ounce; 74% less than Secret Serums line filler.  I don’t know how to compare the products, but the Secret Serums prices seem out of line.

75% discount: +1.  False.

Total score; 0

Unauthorized charges:  I’m turning on the CREDIT CARD RISK ALERT red light, altho I think most of the trouble is due to buyer confusion (which works in Secret Serum’s favor).  Secret Serums doesn’t accept PayPal.

Conclusion: If you’d like to play their game and try to score a free sample, be careful and quick like a mouse stealing cheese out of a trap.  Otherwise, buy it on Amazon.



Shipwrecked by Siren Song (Siren Saver) Alarm

If a woman runs into a store for protection from a mugger, and the store owner robs her, it’s front page news.

If 30,000* women send for a gadget for protection, and the seller robs them all, that’s still front page news — on this little blog.

*Siren Saver advertises that they’ve sold this many sirens.  On July 11, 2017, let’s look at Siren Song Alarm from SirenSaver.Com.  Contact information (see “suspicious location” below):

Email: support@sirensaver.com

There may be nothing illegal or wrong with the following business practices. But they suggest that the seller is not to be trusted. I’m using my Scam-O-Meter scoring system; -1 means true, +1 means false, and 0 means undetermined. I penalize the seller for statements made by shills.

Ridiculous claims: -1

  • Luckily for me I remembered I had my Siren Saver alarm on my purse, and since I was too scared to scream for help, I quickly reached for the alarm and pulled the pin.
  • Quickly becoming one of the most sought after safety devices in America.
  • UPDATE: Due to increased social media attention, we’re currently almost sold out, so please hurry and get yours before they’re gone!

Suspicious location: -1.  7514 Girard Ave Ste #1-175, La Jolla, CA 92037, United States is a  mailbox in a PostalAnnex shop.hq

Onerous terms: -1

  • ALL refunds or warranty replacements will be subject to a 30% restocking fee.
  • If you reverse their charge on your credit card, that’s “Theft.”
  • They don’t guarantee that the siren is fit for any use, nor that anything they say is true.
  • They disavow any guarantees not specified in the Terms Of Service, which contain no guarantees.  This term seems to wipe out their advertised “Satisfaction Guarantee.”

Ads, spam, robocalls: -1

  • They’ll beam ads at you, spam, phone and text you; you can only partially unsubscribe.
  • They’ll share your data with other companies that will do the same.
  • If they sell their company, your data is part of the deal.

Lying and deception: -1.  expertShill People Lifestyle, a.k.a. NationalSafetyBlog, which advertises on Facebook, manufactured an expert reviewer out of clip art.  At the bottom of the page a disclaimer admits the whole thing is fiction.  If they lie, and then mutter “That was a lie,” I’m dinging them for lying anyway.

Obfuscation: +1.  None found.

Phony reviews: -1.  The scam site drips with testimonials by made-up people.  Clicking on them just leads me to the order form, which has even more testimonials by made-up people.  The more credibility props you see, the more you should suspect they’re needed.

Crummy product: -1 From Amazon: “Don’t waste your money. This would not draw anyone’s attention you could scream louder.”  “This came with no instructions so had to figure out how to put it together. Not as loud as I thought it would be and the key ring fell apart so I had to replace it.

Overpriced: +1.  False; the $20 price is in the middle of the pack of personal sirens I looked at on Amazon.

75% discount: +1.  False.

Total score; -4

Unauthorized charges: CREDIT CARD RISK ALERT.  I found many complaints of more products sold than ordered, more money charged than advertised, and continuing unauthorized charges.

  • From #ReportScam: They did not work as advertised and I have been trying to return them, but they will not give me an adress to return them and will not refund. Now I find an additional charge in March for 19.97 plus a foreign transaction fee? I have reported to my bank’s fraud division.
  • From Ripoff Report: “I bought three Siren Song alarms and nothing more. Just received and e-mail, that went to my junk/spam folder notifying me that I have been charged $8.95 for a “VIP Membership” which would be a recurring monthly fee! Low and behold it showed up in my bank as a pending charge. I DID NOT consent to this or give anybody permission to use my card for anything other than the purchase.
  • The Better Business Bureau rates Siren Saver “F” with 18 negative reviews.  “I bought a 2 siren song and they charged me 3 different times once 39.70 and the second time for 4.95 and then 59.95 I called them they told me it was for a subscription fee but refused to tell what the subscription was for …

SirenSaver.com doesn’t accept PayPal, which isn’t too surprising.

Conclusion: Just scream.

Puzzled by FIXD car health monitor

Bought this for my mom for help with car problems since my father passed away,” writes Austin J. of Pensacola FL, who is not an actual person.

On July 4, 2017 (yes, the smoke is rolling in my window as I write) let’s plug the Scam-O-Meter into FIXD and see what’s going on.  Contact information:

FIXD Automotive
75 5th St NW, Suite 380
Atlanta, Georgia US 30308
phone: 404 458 7936

There may be nothing illegal or wrong with the following business practices. But they suggest that the seller is not to be trusted. I’m using my Scam-O-Meter scoring system; -1 means true, +1 means false, and 0 means undetermined. I penalize the seller for statements made by shills.

Ridiculous claims: +1.  None found.

Suspicious location: +1.  False; 75 5th St NW, Suite 380, Atlanta, Georgia US 30308 is a real building.  Other uses of the address that I found were legitimate businesses.hq

Onerous terms: 0.  Their terms are better than many, so I’m cutting them some slack.  However,

  • You have 30 days from the date of your order — not the date you received the monitor — to return your monitor for a refund.
  • They’ll deduct the cost of shipping the monitor to you from your refund.
  • They don’t guarantee that anything they say is true.

Ads, spam, robocalls: +1.  You can opt-in to receive emailed advertising; you can unsubscribe.

Lying and deception: +1.  None found.

Obfuscation: -1

  • Count-down timer to rush you into a hasty decision.
  • The page is continually overlaid by notices that people in other locations are buying monitors.  Maybe they’ll run out of them?

Phony reviews: -1

  • BetterLifeAdvocate gives a fawning review with testimonials by a mix of real and made-up people and graphical links to FIXD; looks like a shill.
  • On-site testimonials by made-up people whose pictures are clip-art.  The one whose father passed away has quite a career as a reviewer.shill

Crummy product: 0.  I can’t tell.  It earned only 2.7 stars among Amazon buyers, with a fairly even split between people who loved and hated it.  “Tech support very slow and vague. App now crashes every time I try to connect. Unfortunately I think this company is going out of business – i’d recommend spending your money elsewhere. Total waste of time and money and failed to work when I actually needed it.

Overpriced: 0.  I can’t tell.  FIXD is asking $60 on their own site, vs. $79 on Amazon.  Amazon offers other car monitors for $18 and up.  These products are too technical to easily compare.

75% discount: +1.  False.

Total score; +3.

Unauthorized charges: I found no reports of this.  But there have been service problems.

  • One person complained on Ripoff Report about a confused response by FIXD to his cancellation request.
  • The Better Business Bureau rates FIXD “F” due to failure to respond to complaints, even tho the complaints they listed had responses.  Common issues are delivery delays and slow, confused responses to requests for cancellations and refunds.
  • FIXD accepts PayPal.

Conclusion: It looks to me like this is a legitimate business that’s overwhelmed.  (The obfuscation and phony reviews are troubling, though.)