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How to Avoid CBD Oil Scams: What You Must Know

Written By Ellese Symons Jan 16th 2022
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Market analysts expect the US hemp industry to be valued at more than $4.23 billion by 2026.2 As the demand for CBD continues to rise, so does the number of merchants adding hemp-derived products to their inventories. But whether you prefer shopping locally or online, you may not want to purchase the first product that catches your attention, at least not until you know how to avoid CBD oil scams. 

In this CBD user guide, you'll find an explanation of some of the most prevalent schemes lurking in the shadows of the CBD industry. We'll also point out the red flags, explain the pitfalls, and cover a few of the most impactful ways to protect your physical health, emotional well-being, and your wallet. 

CBD Scam Alert: Shedding Light on the Most Prevalent Schemes  

The anticipation of profit is a powerful motivator, which brings us to where we are today, stressing the need to remain vigilant against misinformation, deceptive marketing, and outright scams. As reputable brands drive our industry forward, many people who could benefit from the health and wellness potential of high-quality CBD oil products fall victim to predators engaging in all sorts of unsavory behaviors. Of the many schemes raising red flags nationwide, the following examples are the most prevalent. 

Product Mislabeling and Misrepresentation  

For nearly a decade, consumers purchasing hemp-derived CBD have been advised to pay close attention to product labels. They've learned to pass on "CBD" from brands using vague terms like "high potency" or "extra-strength" in favor of manufacturers indicating the total amount of CBD in their products, a number specified in milligrams. But as consumer awareness of the need for this vital bit of information increased, scammers altered their tactics.   

Today, bad actors are also specifying how many milligrams of "hemp oil" are in their products. But here's the catch. They're marketing (and selling) misrepresented hemp seed oil. High-quality CBD is extracted from hemp flower. People victimized by this scam often assume they're getting a great price on CBD, but their purchase is incapable of delivering the results they're hoping for.7 

Free CBD Offers and Unauthorized Subscriptions 

There's nothing suspicious about a reputable CBD brand offering sale prices, discounts, or promotions. But a "free" CBD offer is an entirely different matter. It's a trap. Many people looking for an inexpensive way to try CBD don't' realize, at least at first, that scammers charge minimal shipping fees for the sole purpose of obtaining credit card information. People falling victim to these scams often end up paying grossly inflated prices for products they never knowingly agreed to purchase.5 

Many "free CBD" scammers also use fraudulent celebrity endorsements to gain consumer trust. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has received numerous complaints from consumers charged for months after canceling their subscriptions. Most often, their money is never recovered. Disputes are typically countered with numerous excuses for the company's "inability" to authorize refunds.

Misleading, Exaggerated, or Potentially Dangerous Claims  

Companies claiming their CBD products prevent, cure, or treat any known health condition are also scamming consumers. Claims of this nature are a huge red flag. When a company is willing to defy FDA regulations intended to protect consumers from unsubstantiated, potentially dangerous medical claims, there's simply no way to know what other fraudulent acts they may commit. 

The same holds true for brands guaranteeing specific results, promising an unrealistic 100% cannabinoid absorption rate, or even claiming something as simple as legality in all 50 states. Reputable CBD brands aren't going to jeopardize consumer trust by making wild claims to sell products. Just to be clear, CBD is not a cure-all, it's not possible for the human body to absorb every milligram in every serving, and several states ban cannabis use of any kind, including hemp-derived CBD.  

Safe Purchasing Practices: How to Avoid Getting Scammed  

Despite numerous reports of bad actors profiting from fraudulent behavior, it is possible, and not all that difficult, to protect yourself from these (and other) deceptive practices. Now that you know how a few of the most common CBD scams work, you're off to a good start. But you may not be quite in the clear just yet. It's a lot easier to protect yourself from CBD scams when you know how high-quality products are made. So, let's start with the basics.   

The best CBD oil products, the tinctures, topicals, capsules, and gummies produced by reputable manufacturers, are made with the oil extracted from the flowers of naturally cultivated crops. In the hemp industry, CO2 extraction is the "gold standard" for full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD oil.8 Ethanol extraction is best for CBD isolate powder. Once you're reasonably sure you've found a selection of products made with naturally cultivated, CO2-extracted hemp extract, you'll be in a good position to verify that you're on the right track with the following safe purchasing practices. 

Look for a Certificate of Analysis  

Reputable brands verify the purity and potency of their CBD products with third-party batch testing through an independent lab. Companies that value transparency (and consumer trust) provide access to the Certificate of Analysis (COA) for every product tested. If you can't find this essential document, move on. 

Hemp is well-known for absorbing heavy metals and pesticides as it grows, CBD concentrations can vary from one crop to the next, some extraction methods leave residue behind, and cross-contamination can occur at any phase of production. Don't trust assertions that can't be verified. Although 75% of CBD brands claim their products are third-party tested, only about 13% test at least 90% of their products.

Remain Skeptical of Unusually Low Prices  

Most CBD companies keep their pricing structures competitive. If you find CBD oil products priced significantly lower than other brands on the market, take a closer look at the label. Large bottles of highly diluted hemp extract and gummies made with too little CBD per piece are rarely a bargain. 

CBD oil products are priced according to their total number of milligrams (and product type), not the amount of fluid in the bottle or gummies in a jar. While there are exceptions, most CBD oil tinctures are sold in 30ml bottles. The size of the bottle remains the same whether there's 500mg or 5000mg of CBD. When you're ready to compare prices, divide the cost per unit by the total amount of CBD to calculate your cost per milligram.   

Browse Customer Comments & Product Reviews  

Product reviews and user testimonials can tell you a lot about a company. If you're shopping locally, consider searching for brand information on your phone before committing to a purchase. After locating the company's website, read through a few pages of customer comments while staying alert for signs of manipulation. 

Landing on a website with nothing but rave reviews and glowing recommendations suggests the need to dig a little deeper. You could be seeing comments posted by paid contributors or the site owner themselves. CBD brands that value transparency outsource the task to an unbiased service provider to ensure every comment is submitted by a verified customer. 

Verify Payment Portal Security 

Before entering any credit card information for an online purchase, look for a padlock icon in the address bar. That padlock indicates the site uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption to safeguard the information sent between your computer and their server. The URL should begin with https, not http. When you click on the padlock icon, you should see a security certificate verifying the name of the entity registering the site. 

You should also verify the authenticity of any "trust seal" displayed on the page to ensure you're not being misled by an uploaded image.6 If a vendor insists payments can only be made with cryptocurrency or through a wire transfer, gift card, or payment app for any reason, do not provide any personal information. If you suspect (or fall victim to) a CBD scam, contact your bank or credit card company, report the incident to the authorities, and contact the Federal Trade Commission to register a complaint.

Discover Why So Many CBD Users Trust CBDistillery®  

When CBDistillery® was founded in 2016, the hemp industry was overrun with over-priced, inferior CBD products. Far too many people were being taken advantage of. We knew we could do better, so we did. Today, CBDistillery® is a respected industry leader with more than 2 million satisfied customers. 

In an industry plagued by scammers posting fake celebrity endorsements, making exaggerated or blatantly false claims, and selling misrepresented hemp seed oil on ecommerce sites, our customers know they can count on us for fairly-priced, rigorously tested, quality-assured products backed by a 60-day satisfaction guarantee. 

If you're curious about our products but not quite sure where to start, consider taking our 3-minute CBD Product Quiz or scheduling a personal consultation. Based on a 2019 CBDistillery® survey of 1,900 CBD users, most of our customers reported achieving positive results for relaxation, better sleep, mild or temporary anxiety, and pain stiffness and inflammation after physical activity within 7-14 days of consistent use.   


  1. BBB. (2022) BBB Scam Alert: How to Spot a Phony Discount When Buying CBD Online. Better Business Bureau. 

  1. Conway J. (2022) CBD Product Dollar Sales In the United States From 2022 to 2026. Statistica. 

  1. Harrington A. (2021) 25% of CBD Products Are Not Tested for Purity. Forbes. 

  1. FTC (2023) What to Do If You Were Scammed. Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice. 

  1. Hill D. (2021) A Scam Disguised as an Offer to Try Free CBD Oil. Wink News (Fort Meyer's Broadcasting). 

  1. Livingston A. (2022) 9 Credit Card Scams and Frauds to Watch Out For. Money Crashers. 

  1. Morgan M. (2023) 5 CBD Oil Scams You Should Stay Away From. HealthCanal. 

  1. Valizadehderakhshan M, Shahbazi A, et al. (2021) Extraction of Cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa L. (Hemp)—Review. 11(5) Agriculture 384. ttps://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11050384