Of the thousands of multi-level marketing (MLM) scams that exist today, some of the most ethically questionable involve products that claim to heal serious illness and disease. One such company is Young Living Essential Oils, founded by D. Gary Young (and no, the D. does not stand for ‘Doctor’. More on that later.)
Young Living Essential Oils is a typical MLM scam; the victim signs up as a distributor, purchases a starter kit containing products at apparent ‘wholesale’ prices, and then goes on to sell said products and sign up other unsuspecting victims. For each person that you sign up below you, there is a chance to earn commission on not only all of the products they sell, but also on anyone else they manage to sign up as a distributor below them.
The product in this case is a variety of essential oils that distributors swear can cure everything from arthritis to cancer. Similar to other MLM scams, Young Living Essential Oils official documentation shies away from making direct claims as to the medicinal power of their essential oil blends. Such medical claims would draw the attention of governing bodies such as the FDA and leave Young Living Essential Oils open to the legal ramifications of making such false statements. Instead, the company relies on word of mouth spread by distributors who have used the products and believe the oils healed them.
The FDA has cited Young Living Essential Oils on more than one occasion for misleading labeling on their essential oil products, and independent testing has revealed several chemicals, including artificial chemical fragrances, that do not appear on the ingredient list for these alleged ‘natural’ products. Founder Donald Gary Young has been arrested multiple times for misrepresenting himself as a doctor, a naturopath, misleading and deceptive advertising of products claiming to be medicinal, and the distribution and sale of falsified medical treatments. As if that wasn’t enough, Young was also arrested for assault when he attacked employees (including his former wife) with an axe at a company he founded, Young Living, Inc., after they removed him for erratic behavior, fraudulent use of company money, and again misrepresenting himself as a medical doctor.
Following his arrests in Washington, California and Utah, D. Gary Young moved his business to Mexico where he opened a clinic using his essential oil blends to treat cancer and other terminal illnesses. Victims submit blood samples via mail and receive an invitation to the clinic following results that indicate cancerous cells are present. Patients must pay in cash, usually thousands of dollars per week, to have essential oils dripped over their bodies by unlicensed practitioners. The clinic has been the subject of investigation – undercover agents have submitted blood samples independently verified to not contain cancerous cells and were told by Gary Young’s clinic that the patient required immediate treatment for cancer. One of the blood samples belonged to a chicken, and yet again the results came back positive for human cancer.
Promotional videos for Young Living Essential Oils use testimonials from people that have used the oils and received some sort of benefit from them. The people in the video elude to the miraculous power of the essential oils while never actually saying anything substantial about them. Phrases such as “I suffer from arthritis and couldn’t imagine my life without Young Living Essential Oils”, or “I use Young Living Essential Oils every day for my tumour” mislead victims into believing that the products have medicinal value while protecting Young Living from potential lawsuits, FDA approval or the need for scientific testing. In fact, founder Gary Young has refused to allow the FDA to evaluate his products and substantiate his medical claims, arguing that he does not want the government “interfering” with his research. Loosely using terms such as ‘cancer’, ‘tumour’ and ‘disease’ in their promotional material leads victims to a false conclusion that the Young Living Essential Oils have been proven to treat these illness. The terms are simply used in the same sentences as Young Living Essential Oils, with the hope that victims make the assumption on their own. The most terrifying thought is that these claims could potentially cause victims to use Young Living Essential Oils in place of or instead of seeking legitimate medical advice or treatment.
At the end of the promotional videos we learn that all of the testimonials are given by people who are themselves distributors of the product. Distributor success stories on the Young Living website are similarly filled with talk of signing up new distributors, with little mention of the actual product itself. Alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear at this point – if the selling of actual product is overshadowed by an attempt to get you to sign up as a distributor, you are without a doubt dealing with a multi-level marketing scheme!
As with most MLM schemes, victims who have invested money to become distributors are not likely to see the ‘business opportunity’ for what it actually is – a scam. There are many reasons for this:
- They do not want to admit their error in judgment, especially after pitching to friends and family members
- They do not want to admit to themselves that they have wasted their time and money, or that they have been scammed
- They may truly believe in the product they are selling.
When someone is trying to sell you on some business opportunity they just got involved with and they defensively explain that it’s not MLM: that’s when you know without any doubt that it is.
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