10 Tips to Help You Avoid E-Cig Scams
By Lindsay Fox Posted August 28, 2013
Scam companies and bogus free trial offers are unfortunately common in the world of e-cigs, and if you want to avoid falling prey to one of them there are several important tips you should keep in mind. The most common e-cig scam is the 14 day free trial scam, in which you’re offered a “free” starter kit for 14 days, and if you don’t cancel (and return the kit) in time you’re charged around $100 for it and signed up for a meager supply of cartridges each month at astronomical rates. There are other scams too, though, and these tips will help you make sure you don’t hand your payment details over to the wrong people.
1: Things are (almost) never free
If any company is claiming to offer you something for nothing, you should be immediately suspicious. Always ask yourself what the company is getting from the situation. Giving away a free sample could play as an above-board marketing move, but only a large, well-established company would be able to pull it off – and even then it would probably be a disposable e-cig. If you’re faced with an offer of a rechargeable e-cigarette starter kit for “free,” you can pretty much assume that you will be charged for it at some point and you’ll probably be signed up for a monthly cartridge order too. Things are virtually never free.
2: Be on the lookout for false claims
One thing about many scam sites is that they repeat many often-heard mistruths about e-cigs. Getregalcigs.com has several examples, claiming that you can “smoke anywhere” when you can actually just vape in most no smoking areas, and that you only exhale water vapor, which is simply untrue. Other ones to watch out for are the claim that cartomizers contain the equivalent of a pack or more of cigarettes (Regal eCigs claims 70 cigarettes per cartridge!) and that the company has the “number one” e-cigarette. A website making these (or similar) false claims isn't definitely a scam, of course, but it’s a good indication that the company knows virtually nothing about e-cigarettes and therefore could easily be a scammer. If this is combined with a “free trial” offer, you know to definitely stay away.
3: Check the terms and conditions
The thing about nefarious business practices is that selling something under obviously false pretences is illegal, so scamming companies ordinarily spell the entire trick out for you in the “Terms and Conditions” page for the offer. Check out this site (http://www.vantagesmoke.com/terms.php) for an idea of how bad things can get, and why reading the terms and conditions for an offer is absolutely vital.
4: Compare prices
Some e-cig scams are nothing other than products which are shamelessly overpriced. The best tip to avoid falling into this type of trap is to check the prices across several companies. When you first see a site like Smoke Smart’s offering a one-battery starter kit for $150, you might think that it isn't too bad, unless you realize that similar (and better-manufactured) kits are available for around $30 pretty much anywhere else.
5: Don’t subscribe
It might seem easier to subscribe for a regular shipment of cartomizers than to go through the effort of ordering each time, but you shouldn't jump into a subscription readily. For one, signing you up for regular shipments of cartridges is one of the main tricks used by scammers, but there’s also generally no need to commit to anything before you've tried the e-cig out. Even with a reputable company, you shouldn't commit to a regular order when you first buy, but it’s a useful tactic for avoiding scams too. If they have a good product, they’d know that you’ll be back for more and wouldn't be particularly interested in strong-arming you into a commitment.
6: Check trade associations
If you really aren't sure about a manufacturer, there are many trade associations you can check with to see if they’re registered. Groups like the UK-based Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA) and the US Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA) or the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA) list their members, all of whom meet the association’s various trading standards. If the company you’re considering isn't registered with a trade association, it isn't a good sign.
7: Search scam-exposing websites
Sites like Scambook list customer complaints from different companies, including e-cig scammers. If you can’t find anything on these sites, you can always Google “[company name] scam” and see what comes up. There will probably be several angry reports if it is a scam company, but if there aren't any, you still need to weigh up the remaining evidence. If you’re suspicious, it’s better to choose a more trustworthy site than take the risk.
8: Use forums and Facebook groups
You can also use resources like the E-Cigarette Forum to check for complaints from other users, and there are plenty of Facebook groups dedicated to vaping which could have the information you’re looking for. There is even a group which is entirely devoted to exposing e-cig scams. Check for information or just ask about the site that’s concerning you – people will be more than happy to help you.
9: Don’t choose the cheap option
This is general advice on getting the right e-cig, but it also serves as a good method of avoiding scams. This is because they’re often centered on an impossibly good offer or even the notion of getting something entirely for free. Scammers get you to hand over your details by convincing you that you’re getting an awesome deal; they prey on bargain-hunters. Know that if you want something good, you can’t get it for next to nothing. It’s better to spend more and get a dependable, reputable e-cig.
10: Read reviews
Ultimately, the best way to avoid any scam is to read reviews of the brand you’re considering where possible. If the product you’re considering isn't covered by major review sites, it’s unlikely to be everything it seems. Search for reviews of the product in question, and don’t trust the testimonials on the manufacturer’s website. Professional review sites are better than user reviews, since user reviews can easily be faked by intelligent scammers. Even if it isn't a scam company, reading reviews is essential to making the best choice anyway.