Conceivable Miracle or Fertility Fraud? How to Spot a Scam

Protecting Your Health, Money, and Hope From Shady Sites and Con Artists

Counterfeit fertility drugs purchased online
Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Buy your IVF drugs online for cheap! Take this all-natural supplement and conceive this week! Read this book, and you’ll have a pregnancy miracle! Check out this website for cheap fertility drugs—no prescription needed!

Ever see ads like these?

Whatever you do, as tempting as it is, don’t even look.

You can almost be sure they are advertising a scam.

At best, they are over marketing an average product or service.

At worst, they may be fishing for personal information, selling a dangerous product, or attempting to steal your money—along with your hope.

How the Fertility Scammers Hope to Get to You

The good news is that honest people outnumber the scam artists of the world.

The bad news is there are a number of nasty, dishonest people looking to make money off your desire to have a baby.

Infertility can make you feel helpless. You be desperate for an easy solution. The expenses of infertility can make you wish there were cheaper options to build your family.

All of this makes you more susceptible to false promises.

The bad guys know it.

Who wouldn’t prefer to spend $150 on a package of “all-natural” fertility supplements instead of hundreds or thousands of dollars on fertility treatments?

Who wouldn’t wish an instantly downloadable eBook for $75 could actually contain all the secrets to getting pregnant?

(Secrets your doctor hasn’t told you ... since, you know, doctors do that sort of thing ... hold back information that could help you. Don’t they??)

To make the situation even trickier, not every questionable product, person, or website is so obvious in their sales approach.

There are even fertility clinics, doctors, and lawyers who may participate in illegal or questionable practices.

Then, there are businesses with good intentions that may oversell their product. So it looks like a scam, but it’s really just bad marketing.

There are also people who truly believe they are doing good even if they are doing so in a questionable way.

How do you know whom to trust?

Investigate “Backed by Research” Claims

“Research proven supplement will get you pregnant without side effects!”

Says who?

Anyone can write those words on their website. They may not even be lying.

When a product or service claims it’s backed by research, they may mean...

  • Components of their product have been researched in some way. For example, research shows that folic acid can help fertility in men and women. You could add a basic dose of folic acid to any supplement, and now it’s a “proven fertility booster” ... kind of.
  • Their own research has found their product to be useful. Unless the research has appeared in a peer-reviewed journal (and even that doesn’t make the results absolutely actionable), you should question the basis of their claims.

A company proving that their own product works doesn’t prove much, other than their wish to believe in their own product.

  • Their product or service really has been had rigorously researched and shown to possibly improve fertility. Depending on patent regulations, you may be able to get the same results from someone else’s product or services, possibly for less money.

When a site claims their product is backed by research, it’s worth your time to read over that research.

Can’t easily find the references on their website? There’s a good chance they’re being dishonest.

Most legit companies will list the relevant research on their website.

It should be easy to find. You should always look for those studies on an unaffiliated site (like to confirm the studies really exist.

Also, remember that even PubMed lists studies published in journals of questionable integrity.

Pushy Sales Pitches Are Often a Warning Sign

If a site reeks of pushy sales, you may be looking at a scam.

This isn’t always true. It could be that the company isn’t great at marketing.

Go with your gut.

Does this site feel extra pushy? Are you feeling tempted to purchase their product even though you’re really not sure why, besides the hope that their promises will be true?

Then just walk away.

Unbelievable Results Shouldn’t Be Believed

“Guaranteed pregnancy in 30 days or your money back!”

“I got pregnant at 49 without any fertility treatment thanks to this tomato-and-chili fertility diet, and you can too!!”

If the promises are outrageous, you probably shouldn’t trust them.

No one—not even the very best fertility clinic in the world, with the very best technology and limitless amounts of money—can guarantee you’ll get pregnant.

Many of these sites offer a money-back guarantee if you’re not “satisfied” with their product.

Why would they make the guarantee if they know it may not happen?

They are betting on you not taking them up on the guarantee.

They hope that you’ll forget you ever made the purchase by then. They hope you’ll blame yourself for not conceiving (maybe you didn't follow their impossible-to-follow diet perfectly) instead of their product.

Unbelievable Prices Should Also Raise Your Distrust

Two of the most expensive ways to build your family are through egg donor IVF and surrogacy. Not only are they expensive, but they can also be legally tricky to set up.

This is not the time to try and save money by going with questionable, cheaper solutions.

Couples have lost tens of thousands of dollars—and experienced tremendous emotional pain—due to surrogacy and egg donor scams.

Finding an egg donor who meets your requirements may not be easy. This is especially true if you want someone that is of a particular ethnicity.

Also, surrogacy laws vary from country to country and state to state. This both increases risks and costs.

Being offered an “inexpensive and easier solution” for egg donor IVF or surrogacy can sound appealing. But it’s probably a scam.

To be absolutely sure, it’s best to arrange egg donors or surrogacies through well-known and reputable fertility clinics or agencies.

Even if that means you'll have to travel or spend more money.

Do not, under any circumstances, use sites like Craigslist or personal ad sites to find an egg donor, sperm donor, or surrogate! There have been several news stories were people got scammed (or worse) when trying this.

If you’re not using a known donor or surrogate (that would be someone you know personally), go through a clinic or agency.

Also, always be sure to secure your own lawyer. Choose someone who is not affiliated with the clinic or agency you are working with.

A clinic or agency may offer "to share" their lawyer for a lower fee than you’d pay for your own. But you want someone who will absolutely represent your side, with no bias.

Even with that, check references! Dig, dig, dig to be sure whoever you’re working with is on the up and up.

Anyone can call themselves “the best” or “most trusted.” You need to talk to other people who can verify they are who they say they are.

Always Check References or Endorsements

Speaking of references and endorsements, always check that they are legit.

If a website says they are “endorsed by leading doctors,” find out who those doctors are. Is their endorsement worth much?

You can also contact a particular doctor's or clinic's PR representative to confirm whether they really endorse this product or service.

Always ask for references when looking at a fertility clinic or doctor. Call those people up and ask them about their experiences.

Same goes with agencies or lawyers. The extra effort to make a few phone calls is worth it!

You can also ask your gynecologist, a local Resolve contact, your therapist, or someone from an infertility support group.

Be Weary of Overly Enthusiastic Forum Posts

Some of my closest fertility buddies are people I met online in fertility forums, on social media, or in the fertility blogosphere.

With that said, you can’t trust everything you see in a forum.

Fertility clinics and companies selling fertility products or services have been known to hire people to post positive comments online praising their businesses.

The less-than-legitimate posters are often easy to spot. Their posts are only in support of a particular product or business.

Or, they suddenly show up in a forum posting referral links but not much else.

Endorsements posted on a forum should be considered with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Fertility Drugs Should Only Be Purchased from a Reliable Source

Do not ever purchase fertility drugs via a message board or from a site like Craigslist.

I know; it can be tempting.

Another fertility challenged person has purchased too many vials a very pricey fertility drug. By selling her extras to you, it can feel like a win-win. You get your medications for less, and she recoups some of her expenses.

Don’t do it.

First of all, it’s illegal.

Second, you have no way of knowing how those medications were handled.

Maybe they needed to be refrigerated at all times, and they weren't. Or maybe she purchased them secondhand from someone else, and they are expired.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, you have no way of knowing if the medications are what they say. They can be counterfeit drugs.

You may be risking your life by taking them.

At the very least, you may be risking your cycle.

You should also know that it is also illegal for someone to give her unused medications to someone else via a third party, like a fertility clinic.

If your fertility clinic is selling or even giving away leftover medications from another patient, find another fertility clinic.

If you're going to purchase fertility drugs online, be absolutely sure they are from a legitimate pharmacy.

Check the National Associations of Boards of Pharmacy website, and confirm they are a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS).

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