Transgender people can be a scam artist’s dream. We often have serious money issues, and some of us deal with being unemployed, underemployed, or other financial problems.
Many of us are not out as transgender or in the process of transition. That means many of us can’t come forward when we are ripped off, for fear of being outed.
Plenty of people will use your desperation to sell false hope to you. This might be products or services that don’t work as claimed, or “get rich quick” schemes. Some people in our community overcharge or even sell scam products. Some troubled people even lie about who they are in hopes of gaining your trust.
Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
There was a time not long ago when most women in our community got their hormones on the street via the black market. These were often marked up to exorbitant prices, cut with who knows what, or injected in unsafe ways.
Herbal products (“phytoestrogens”) with little or no published data indicating safety or effectiveness should be avoided.
Overseas pharmacy scams have popped up all over the internet and in your email box. Spammers have inundated this category, making it even harder to find legitimate places, though there are a few that stay ahead of regulators and customs officials. Even with the legitimate places, you are better off getting a prescription here and doing everything under medical supervision.
Hair removal scams
I cover these extensively on hairfacts and hairtell, and I have a list of recommended practitioners for you to do further research.
If it’s painless, it’s not permanent, and vice versa.
Many home use lasers are scams to avoid. Only use devices cleared by FDA. At this time, these devices do not deliver permanent results.
The only available method for removing hair permanently at home is a used professional electrolysis unit or a home-use device that allows a metal probe to be inserted in the hair follicle.
Pretty much anything sold on eBay or other online auction sites will not work as claimed.
These seek to repair or partition bad or nonexistent credit, and are sometimes illegal. There are legitimate consumer credit counseling places that can help you restructure your debt, but they will not ask for a big fee up front. Beware of credit card offers that look like they have a good rate, but charge huge monthly fees or processing charges.
Be careful of work-at-home plans or jobs that require you to send them money in order to start.
Many people in our community have a hard time interviewing when in the midst of transition, so they find themselves with jobs that don’t involve direct contact, like telemarketing or web-based marketing. Many of these companies are not very reputable, so be sure you understand how you will get paid.
Multilevel marketing (MLM)
Pyramid schemes now come in so many forms that they may be difficult to recognize immediately. However, they all share one overriding characteristic. They promise consumers or investors large profits based primarily on recruiting others to join their program, not based on profits from any real investment or real sale of goods to the public. Some schemes may purport to sell a product, but they often simply use the product to hide their pyramid structure. There are two tell-tale signs that a product is simply being used to disguise a pyramid scheme: inventory loading and a lack of retail sales. Inventory loading occurs when a company’s incentive program forces recruits to buy more products than they could ever sell, often at inflated prices. If this occurs throughout the company’s distribution system, the people at the top of the pyramid reap substantial profits, even though little or no product moves to market. The people at the bottom make excessive payments for inventory that simply accumulates in their basements. A lack of retail sales is also a red flag that a pyramid exists. Many pyramid schemes will claim that their product is selling like hot cakes. However, on closer examination, the sales occur only between people inside the pyramid structure or to new recruits joining the structure, not to consumers out in the general public.
A Ponzi scheme is closely related to a pyramid because it revolves around continuous recruiting, but in a Ponzi scheme the promoter generally has no product to sell and pays no commission to investors who recruit new “members.” Instead, the promoter collects payments from a stream of people, promising them all the same high rate of return on a short-term investment. In the typical Ponzi scheme, there is no real investment opportunity, and the promoter just uses the money from new recruits to pay obligations owed to longer-standing members of the program.
- Offers commissions to recruit new distributors
- Asks you to spend money on costly inventory
- Claims that you will make money by recruiting new members instead of on sales you make yourself
- Promises high profits
- Claims they sell a “miracle” product
- Provides references who are paid “shills”
- Pressures you to pay money or sign contracts
US Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov)
US Food and Drug Administration (fda.gov)
- FDA regulates drugs, biological products, medical devices, foods, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.
Better Business Bureau (bbb.org)
- Research businesses or register complaints
MLM Watch (mlmwatch.org)
- One of the best overviews.
- Covers a wide variety of health-related scams