Perhaps it’s an ad you catch a glimpse of while browsing the web, or maybe it’s an article peppered into your daily routine of scanning for more information.
It seems innocuous enough– perhaps you haven’t been doing every single thing possible to ensure you conceive as quickly as possible. What’s the harm in looking into every option available? Especially if it could be thousands upon thousands of dollars cheaper than spending months working with a fertility clinic?
If you’ve been doing research into getting pregnant, there’s no doubt you’ve seen the advertisements: buy your IVF drugs online for cheap! Take this all-natural supplement and conceive within days! Read this book, and you’ll have a pregnancy miracle! Check out this website for cheap fertility drugs—no prescription needed!
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 that won’t live up to the hype. At worst, they may be fishing for personal information, selling a dangerous product, or attempting to steal your money, along with dashing your hopes. The good news is that honest people outnumber the scam artists of the world. As long as you do your research and stick to well-known and legal sources, there isn’t much to worry about. The bad news is that there are a number of nasty, dishonest people looking to make money off your desire to have a baby. Infertility or family planning can make you feel helpless– you might be desperate for an easy solution. The expenses of infertility and third party reproduction can make you wish there were cheaper options to build your family. All of this makes you more susceptible to false promises, and the bad guys know it and want to exploit 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 $50 could actually contain all the secrets to getting pregnant? (Because, as you know, doctors are so well-known for holding back information that could help you.)
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, “intended parents”, and lawyers who may participate in illegal or questionable practices. Alternatively, there are businesses with good intentions that may oversell their product, or have translation issues if trying to sell from overseas. This can make it look 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, or are unaware of the repercussions. So how do you know who to trust?
Researching “Backed by Research”
First things first– always look for references. Many fertility scams will advertise that “research” has proven that a certain treatment “will help you get pregnant with no side effects”. The first question you should ask is: says who? Anyone can write those words on their website, and 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, so technically, you could add a basic dose of folic acid to any supplement. Now it’s a “proven fertility booster” …in a way.
- 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. If the study was published by the company selling the product, it is likely a scam.
- Their product or service really has been 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, but it isn’t very likely.
When a site claims their product is backed by research, it’s worth your time to read over that research. Even simply looking for research on their website can be a helpful tool when investigating. If you can’t easily find the references on their site, there’s a good chance they’re being dishonest, as most legit companies will list the relevant research on their website where it can be easily seen. Additionally, you should always back up the initial research and look for those studies on an unaffiliated site (like PubMed.com) to confirm the studies really exist. Also, remember that even PubMed lists studies published in journals of questionable integrity.
Check Your References (and Endorsements!)
Speaking of references and endorsements, always check that they are legitimate. If a website says they are “endorsed by leading doctors,” find out who those doctors are– is their endorsement real, and if so, is it 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. Another way to avoid a scam is to seek out previous patients and ask them about their experiences using this treatment or clinic. Getting a first-hand account can also help you avoid scams. Bottom line is, if the endorsements are fake then it is likely a fertility scam.
Unbelievable Results Are Just That– Unbelievable
Avoid products that guarantee a pregnancy. If you see a product that advertises a 100% guaranteed pregnancy, it is most likely a fertility scam. 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. There are so many factors that can lead to infertility and failed transfers, and in some instances, it is just not possible for a woman to get pregnant. If the promises are outrageous, you probably shouldn’t trust them.
Many of these sites offer a money-back guarantee if you’re not “satisfied” with their product, which leads one to think: why would they make the guarantee if they know it may not happen? Turns out, this is a tactic often used by scam sites, as they are betting on you not taking them up on the guarantee. They hope that you’ll forget you ever made the purchase by the time you realize it doesn’t work, or that you’ll get too frustrated to want to follow up and bother with their “guarantee”. What’s worse, they are hoping you’ll blame yourself for not conceiving (maybe you didn’t follow their impossible-to-follow diet perfectly) instead of their product.
Too Cheap To Be True
The fact of the matter is that if you are looking into options such as IVF and surrogacy, there is no such thing as a cheap fix. Two of the most expensive ways to build your family are through egg donor IVF and surrogacy, and not only are they expensive, but they can also be difficult to set up and require both legal intervention and time. An easier way out can be tempting, such as a book or supplement that is sold to help cure infertility, is likely just a scam to make money off of individuals who are looking for a cheap fix.
Unfortunately, this is not the time to try and save money by going with questionable, cheaper solutions. Be wary of all cost-saving alternatives. 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, and surrogacy laws vary from country to country and state to state. This both increases risks and costs, as well as lengthening the timeframe that you can expect any type of result.
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 resist the so-called savings. You will want someone who will totally and completely represent your side, with no bias.
Even with that, check references! Be sure whoever you’re working with is on the up and up and has no prior instances of being sleazy. 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.
Don’t Get Pushed Into a Sale
If a site reeks of pushy sales, you may be looking at a scam. This isn’t always true, as it could be that the company isn’t great at marketing or customer service. However, you can always go with your gut and watch out for warning signs. For example, 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? Is a salesperson threatening to revoke the originally offered “deal”, or saying that time is running out and a decision needs to be made NOW? If so, it is probably best to just walk away.
Beware of Overly-Enthusiastic Forum Posts
Some of the closest connections you can make during your fertility journey are with people 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 or develop bots that pretend to post as real people. 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. All endorsements posted on a forum should be considered with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Fertility Drugs Should Only Be Purchased from a Reliable Source
Imagine this scenario: another fertility-challenged person you’ve been in touch with tells you that they have purchased too many vials of 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– what could be wrong in that?
Tempting as it may be, do not ever purchase fertility drugs via a message board or from a site like Craigslist. First of all, it’s very illegal. Second, you have no way of knowing how those medications were handled. Perhaps they needed to be refrigerated at all times, and they weren’t. Or maybe she purchased them secondhand from someone else, and now they are expired. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, you have no way of knowing if the medications are what they say they are. They can be counterfeit drugs, and you may be risking your life by taking them. At the very least, you may be risking your cycle and chances of conception.
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, proceed with caution and confirm they are sealed and perhaps 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 Association of Boards of Pharmacy website, and confirm they are a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS) before even considering a purchase.