Ukrainian company Everad heads massive scam selling fake dietary supplements in Europe
An organized network based in Ukraine and Russia has been selling in Romania (and not only there) mixtures said to “cure every ailment,” including such serious diseases as hypertension and diabetes. The company urges its customers to refuse treatment prescribed by real doctors in favor of its own “medicines.” Notably, most of the “clients” are elderly people whose health can be gravely compromised by such “treatment” and whose skills of checking information on the Internet are scarce, if any. Romanian investigators from the media platform Recorder have found that one of the two major players in this industry is the Ukrainian tech company Everad.
Previously, Everad was also accused of selling uncertified dietary supplements which were allegedly effective against coronavirus. Back then, the Security Service of Ukraine searched its Kyiv office and found over $1m in cash there. The company denies everything. Commenting to AIN.UA, a company’s representative has claimed that Everad did not sell anything in Ukraine and also declared the falsity of the information about the money found during the search.
AIN.UA journalist gives a summary of the Recorder article. She has talked to a representative and an ex-employee of Everad. She has also registered on the company’s web platform as a partner to find out how it works and reconfirm Recorder’s findings.
In a nutshell
- In Romania, it has been noticed that dietary supplements which can allegedly replace medicines are gaining growing popularity. They do not work – those are pills with no active ingredients. The problem is that they are promoted as substitutes for medications.
- The mixtures have been marketed on the Internet via fake websites of the local Ministry of Health, using photos of doctors and celebrities without their consent, which act as guarantors of such “treatment.” Entire call centers work on cold calls (the operators themselves allegedly do not know what they are selling).
- According to Recorder, Ukraine’s Everad is among the most active sellers of these supplements on the market. The company has been selling nutritional supplements through a partner network across over 20 countries overall. Meanwhile, Everad claims that none of the websites or products mentioned in the article are related to the company and that Everad itself does not violate the laws of individual countries.
- Everad’s revenues in 2019 are over $16.5m.
- This activity is illegal: the mixtures are not certified, the advertising misleads people, and fake information is used. The Romanian Institute for Food Bioresources confirmed this to the Recorder journalists.
- A former employee of Everad confirms what was said in the Recorder article. The journalist of AIN.UA has also conducted an investigation of her own to check the information presented by Recorder.
- The orchestrated network has set up a scheme to sell fake nutritional supplements to aged people. To attract customers, it uses misleading online advertising, which urges the audience to refuse their professional treatment and switch to the proposed alternative. As suggested by the advertisement, it can “cure” various diseases, including hypertension, prostatitis, varicose veins, psoriasis, diabetes, as well as stop alcohol addiction.
- For better plausibility, the scammers have used various methods: for example, they have cloned the website of the Ministry of Health and, to support the quality of the product, they have stolen identities of doctors (and not only those), who “share their observations.” To protect themselves from call tracking, participants in the scheme use various specialized services.
- After receiving an application from a trusting elderly person to purchase a “healing” product, the call center employees contact and urge him or her that this is the right decision. However, when trying to learn more about the products, the operators become aggressive.
- It is noteworthy that buyers can find ads about selling fake pills on very different media resources, which place banners and other ads for monetization.
- An entire industry that works on an international level stands behind this story is. There are hundreds of duplicated Internet pages in several languages identical to those operating in Romania. A former Everad employee has also confirmed this information in a commentary to AIN.UA.
- The names of products are constantly changing as scammers “invent” new drugs. When certain products are no longer favored in one country or are the subject of unfavorable articles in the press, the network replaces them with others.
- The products offered by the scammers are becoming popular and in demand. In the last month, the “cure” for hypertension, Detonic, was searched for over 15,000 times on Google, and the “cure” for prostatitis, Urotrin – over 30,000 times. And these figures are only for Romania.
- The Recorder journalist managed to reach a woman who worked in the call center and urged clients to buy fake pills to replace the treatment prescribed by doctors. She confirmed that the scheme was run from Ukraine.
- According to her, none of the workers know the composition of the pills. The employees work unofficially, on a salary of up to $400 a month.
Who stands behind this story
The pills are produced in Russia by companies that are publicly engaged in this type of activity. They pack herbal powders in plastic containers, which are packaged and labeled on demand.
“Over the past five years, we have developed and produced over 1,000 products for affiliate marketing programs,” states Moscow-based Capital Produkt. Their offering includes “creating the idea and name of the product, creating a unique design, preparing documents, creating the product.
- During the investigation, the magazine found two companies that are long-term players in the Romanian market: LeadBit (Russia) and Everad (Ukraine). During the existence of the scheme, they managed to create a huge network of virtual sellers that sell illicit products in dozens of countries.
Leadbit focuses on the sale of dietary supplements positioned as “miracle-working drugs.” In three years of existence, the company has expanded its network from the Baltic States and Europe to Colombia and Vietnam. Leadbit call centers operate in 50 countries globally. At the same time, the founders regularly share photos of their luxurious life on the social network.
In Romania, one of the two most active advertisers of these drugs is MGID, an AdTech company with an office in Kyiv and a total reach of 850 million people. Recorder reports that MGID works directly with Everad and Leadbit to spread the word about the pills. It is noteworthy that in February 2020, MGID’s Ukrainian office was searched – the company was accused of “financing of criminal websites.” MGID called the search groundless.
- In Romania, Everad operates through Make Profit SRL. The journalists of Recorder discovered that it was founded back in 2016 by a Ukrainian Roman Drozdov. Later, another Ukrainian, Igor Parinov, became the administrator of the company. According to their LinkedIn profiles, they both worked for Everad long before starting Make Profit SRL in Romania. It justifies the relationship between Make Profit SRL and Everad since the company was founded in Romania.
- Subsequently, the company was handed over to a Ukrainian Vitaly Stavnitsky, whose legal address is registered in Moscow. However, Make Profit SRL retained its business and currently sells Everad food supplements in Romania.
- Besides, Make Profit SRL is listed in the customs invoices as the recipient of nutra from CITY TRADE UKRAINE LLC, which is indicated as a company controlled by Everad in the court’s search warrant. Yet another proof of the ties between Make Profit SRL and Everad. Simultaneously, the latter is a supplier of uncertified supplements, not just an advertising company.
- The company sells nutritional supplements in more than 20 countries using a partner network, also engaged in cloning websites. In doing so, Everad asserts that call centers take over the orders and handle the delivery of products, while the subsidiaries’ only task is to promote supplements. In addition to generous commissions, there are also additional prizes offered to best-performing branches.
- The fact that Everad not only advertises the products can also be evidenced by the information on the website of the Russian company Sashera-Med, which, in particular, is engaged in the sale of the so-called nutra. The official distributor of Sashera-Med products mentioned on the company’s website is PromoArt LLC (Vostok LLC)—the partner network of Everad.
- Interestingly enough, Everad’s turnover has soared in recent years: from $208,000 in 2017 to $4.2 million in 2018. Its revenue has reached $16.5M in 2019, according to the latest tax information available from the Ministry of Finance.
We were able to contact a former employee of the company, who confirmed the functioning of the large-scale scheme:
What is described in the article is accurate. I don’t know who is the ultimate beneficiary in the company – I have never seen them, but call centers and sales exist both in Ukraine and in more than 20 countries worldwide. There was a production in Ukraine, but it seems to have been closed long ago. Production is established in Russia, Asia, and countries with cheap raw materials (at least it was in 2019).
Dietary supplements with an “empty” composition are indeed presented as effective cures for many major diseases. Information is presented to employees differently. They say these are auxiliary medicines, and we do not sell health. Doctors, reviews – all fake, same landing page is duplicated in different languages and tweaked to meet a particular country’s needs.
I don’t know the specifics of sales and affiliation, but there are many sketchy schemes and deceptions both inside and outside the company. It seems that there were also massive non-payments to partners. My experience of working with the company is as negative as they come.
In response to a request from the editors of AIN.UA, representatives of Everad called the investigation of Recorder a puff piece, adding that Everad does not violate the laws of individual countries and the internal rules of the advertising network.
All product examples and advertising violations are in no way connected with the products promoted by Everad’s advertising network. The entire “investigation” shows the activities of competitors.
All mentions of Everad in the article are reduced to only one sentence: “Ukrainians in Everad are at least at one level,” without a single mention of violations in the company’s activities.
Everad follows a strict pre-moderation policy of advertising materials that affiliates plan to publish and never violates individual countries’ laws and the advertising network’s internal rules.
The article is clearly planted. None of the websites and products mentioned in the article are related to Everad. We do not display such advertisements in the territory of Romania.
Look from inside: Everad partner network
The journalist of AIN.UA conducted her check of the Recorder article, following the steps of the Romanian journalists. The journalist of the magazine has registered as a partner on the Everad platform and tells how you can sell supplements in Romania (and not only) through it.
To start promoting supplements, all you have to do is to select specific supplements and request access to offers from the administrator. The application requires you to talk about your experience in Internet marketing, as well as clarify the traffic sources that will be used in the sale of dietary supplements.
Having gained access to the Everad system, the partner can choose the landing pages through which the supplements will be sold. Websites from the list are available in different languages, as well as in several variations. Moreover, the seller was asked to select a transit page (in particular, a fake website of the Ministry of Health of the target country), from which the buyer can go to the checkout page.
Each transit page contains ostensibly real customer reviews, as well as “doctors’ recommendations.”
AIN.UA journalist found photos of some of these “doctors” and “buyers” on stock photo services, and Dr. Ionescu Octavian, who recommends Friokard, turned out to be a prominent TV presenter and journalist Vladimir Posner. On another landing page, Posner tells how DiabeNot capsules helped “lower blood sugar.”
In the account, a partner can monitor the statistics of orders for placed supplements, filter indicators by country, landing page, platforms, and other promotion channels. The “Finance” section contains information about current earnings – the partner receives a commission every time a buyer places and pays for an order.
Thus, the sellers’ task is to receive offers for supplements and place as many selling pages on the Internet as possible. The rest is handled by Everad: the call center reaches customers, the delivery is arranged, and the products are shipped.
In the account, partners receive information about offers suspended in many countries. As noted by the Recorder, this could be due to a lack of demand for the supplement or if the supplement becomes the subject of negative press coverage. In this case, sellers are offered to replace the product with a similar one but with a different name.
New versions of landing pages and transit pages are regularly added to the platform, and partners are also informed about this in the “News” section.
The list of countries where supplements can be sold does not include Ukraine. Regarding the Romanian market, all the supplements listed in the Recorder material are sold in more than ten countries.
Why it matters
The Ukrainian company Everad is accused of illegally selling dietary supplements in different European countries. An active advertising campaign with fake recommendations from fake doctors and customers is used to distribute the drugs. The customers are offered to refuse professional treatment, which can have a negative impact on health. All of this is actively promoted by companies with a reach of 850 million people, as MGID did.
Considering that anyone can join Everad and LeadBit as a partner and sell pills online – the scam’s reach could be enormous. And the precedent could reflect on the whole Ukrainian AdTech industry: the above Everad and MGID are, after all, different types of companies. Full-service companies “producer – traffic – call center” and simple traffic providers (like members of Affhub community of marketers supported by Everad) are not the same. But if the story continues, European countries are not likely to deal with it.