Swindles, cons and scams: Don’t let your eyes deceive you

Swindles, cons and scams: Don’t let your eyes deceive you

Call it incredible. Call it impossible. Call it "the greatest scientific breakthrough in eye care in 100 years." Or call it what it is—a shameless scam.

We have to watch out for unethical technologies and services that take advantage of people.

Quantum Vision System bills itself as a tell-all book series that purportedly lifts the veil on how to achieve perfect, 20/20 vision in one week without the use of corrective lenses. Once $399.99—but now available for the low, low price of $27, "today only"—Quantum Vision System is an internet-based scheme targeting the pocketbooks of unsuspecting consumers since 2014, now turning its sights on doctors, too.

The ploy's less-than-polished online advertising claims users can even improve one whole "prescription point" in just 10 minutes of eye exercises using the power of quantum physics, a claim supposedly supported by research that's more than a century and a quarter old. It claims to help consumers "save thousands on glasses, contacts and doctor visits" while restoring "the vision you had as a child...in the comfort of your own home."

But ludicrous claims are just that.

If suspicious consumers couldn't already see through the gimmick, scam-busting websites put doubts to rest, including outing an undisclosed paid actor impersonating an optometrist to peddle the products.

"This product makes completely false promises to patients via an internet advertisement sales pitch that has no medical merit whatsoever," says Andrew Morgenstern, O.D., AOA consultant.  

After doing an exhaustive online search, Dr. Morgenstern says there is no credible scientific peer-reviewed research or evidence justifying the claims of such a product. Furthermore, the research it does cite—the "Bates" Method, circa 1891—advocates against the use of corrective eyewear, a practice that could actually make patients' eyesight worse in many cases.  

The unfounded medical claims amount to a bait-and-switch, Dr. Morgenstern argues, and deceived consumers agree. Software Projects, Inc., an internet marketing service, is the listed retailer for Quantum Vision System and is not Better Business Bureau (BBB) accredited. In fact, the BBB lists 17 complaints against Software Projects within the past three years for problems with products/services, billing and advertising.  

Doctors shouldn't only be wary of such a scam directed at their patients, but also at themselves. Reportedly, patients—and doctors—in at least one state have received text messages from Quantum Vision System saying, "Your Glasses are Killing You!" and directing people back to the product website.

"Sadly, this isn't the only vision scam out there," Dr. Morgenstern warns. "Optometrists need to be on the lookout, and more importantly, patients need to be on the lookout, for medical technology supported by unsubstantiated claims. There are numerous such products out there, and not just limited to eye care."

Keeping a weather eye on misleading products, services

Quantum Vision isn't the first such for-profit service that misleadingly claims to correct or improve consumers' vision without need for vision-correction devices. And it isn't the last.  

An app-based service called "Ultimeyes" was flagged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in September 2015 for making unsubstantiated claims. This company claimed its product was "scientifically shown to improve vision" and that users would benefit from "comprehensive vision improvement" that reduced the need for glasses and contact lenses—so long as consumers used the $5.99-$9.99 app routinely for a series of "visual exercises."  

The FTC issued a moratorium on the company's claims, alleging that the studies cited by Ultimeyes and the company's owner do not prove the product works. Furthermore, the FTC faulted Ultimeyes for not disclosing the owner's company affiliation when touting these studies via advertisements. The order prohibited the company from misrepresenting scientific research and required it to clearly disclose such connections.  

The action received national news and underscored the work that the AOA and affiliates do to bring public awareness to such misleading services. Steven A. Loomis, O.D., AOA immediate past-president, commented at the time that "wherever we find similar violations of federal or state law, our AOA and state associations will be pressing for full enforcement; where laws may need to be updated to better protect the public, we will be an advocacy force."  

While online services tout consumer convenience, albeit with ambiguous and inaccurate claims, the AOA contends there are severe pitfalls in separating refractive tests and eye health services from routine comprehensive eye exams performed in person by an eye care professional. That's why the AOA takes a firm stance against inadequate, online "vision tests," such as Opternative, that can pose a threat to patient health.  

"While there are some great technologies out there, there's absolutely no substitution for a full, in-person comprehensive eye examination, and we have to watch out for unethical technologies and services that take advantage of people," Dr. Morgenstern says.  

Click here to read more about AOA efforts to safeguard consumers against misleading claims.

October 18, 2016

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