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Is This Gadget a Scam?

An antifreeze snow removal device, allegedly inspired by NASA technology, is a case study on how to sniff out scams

Anyone who owns a car and who lives in snowy climes will be tempted by this. What if you could buy a small device that you left in your car and that magically melted the snow off of it and prevented your car from freezing? You may think this is the sort of thing you would see on Star Trek, yet I can point you to a website where you can acquire this incredible device today for only USD 26.97.

It's called the Fivfivgo™ PRO Electromagnetic Molecular Interference Antifreeze Snow Removal Instrument. I’d like to use it as a case study for how I go about figuring out if a cutting-edge gadget really does work or if it’s just a worthless scam. Hopefully, you can use these steps to better protect your wallet.

Extraordinary claims

The first step is to look at the claims being made and to see if they align with the state of science and technology. This will be counterproductive for people prone to magical thinking: after all, one person’s nonsense is another person’s imagined reality. But if you have your finger on the pulse of technological development, you can quickly get an inkling as to whether or not a product like this snow remover might be a trick.

Scrolling down the webpage, we can read that the puck-like device uses “electromagnetic molecular interference,” that it is solar driven and uses no external power supply, and that it detects temperature and starts automatically. It’s also the same technology apparently used to prevent NASA’s Mars rovers from freezing, and all of this can be yours for the low, low price of a three-course restaurant meal.

New technologies tend not to be cheap. Apple’s Vision Pro mixed-reality headset will start at USD 3,499. A true de-icer like FivFivGo’s could easily retail for a thousand dollars and many people would buy it to avoid having to brush away the snow and scrape the ice off of their car every winter. Its current price tag beggars belief.

“Electromagnetic molecular interference” is also exactly the kind of science-sounding language that will sway the non-scientist. But if it interferes with snow and ice molecules, why doesn’t it interfere with the rest of the car? If it uses electromagnetic radiation, like infrared or X-rays, where’s the power supply? You will also see on the webpage a couple of mentions that the product is “cruelty free” and “sustainably sourced.” These are just buzzwords meant to reassure you. “Sustainably sourced?” The puck looks like it's made of plastic!

Birds of a feather

We can also look at what else the company sells. What we see is a veritable smorgasbord of pseudoscience, from green tea detox masks to headphones for lymphatic drainage. FivFivGo also sells many different de-icers: they all look slightly dissimilar, and the reference to NASA technology is sometimes replaced by claims it is inspired by a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Tokyo.

The template for these write-ups is identical: here’s a problem you have; we sell you the solution; it was developed by really smart people you’ll recognize; here is scientific gibberish on how it works; and here is what users have to say about our wonderful product. And don’t worry: it is everything you want in a product. Cruelty free, dermatologist tested, sustainably sourced, and hypoallergenic. It is cutting edge technology that is also 100% natural and innocuous. None of this adds up.

Insert business address here

We can continue to look at the website to see if the seller seems legitimate or not, and this is where we end up on the terms of service page. Typically, not something the average person would read for fun, but when we scroll through it, we spot problems. A template was clearly used and key information is missing, such as in this gem: “Your submission of personal information through the store is governed by our Privacy Policy, which can be viewed here: [LINK TO PRIVACY POLICY].”

If you would like to contact this company in any way other than email, you are out of luck. Their trading name, business address, phone number, business registration number, and VAT number are all missing from their contact information. This is not reassuring.

Like and share

You can then search for the company on major social media platforms to see if it has a presence there and what people are saying about its products. The closest thing to a Facebook page for FivFivGo seems to be this one, which is essentially empty and is listed as a “sports team” page.

Searching for FivFivGo on Facebook also led me to the Bikenda Molecular Interference Antifreeze Snow Removal Instrument, which looks suspiciously like FivFivGo’s device. There is a video showing how it works and it is pretty funny. Clearly, they had to use crude visual effects to make it appear as though cars were unaffected by snow falls on account of the device. We are shown footage from a security camera overseeing a house’s front door during a heavy snow fall, with the footage accelerated on playback. Funnily enough, while gusts of snow obscure the camera at times, the car with the snow remover inside of it always remains perfectly visible and unaltered, almost as if it was an image that was dropped over the footage.

Clearly, these magical snow removing devices do not work as advertised, but I was beginning to wonder if they were even real. Do people who buy them ever receive anything through the mail?

The one thing it doesn’t fail is the smell test

That’s where we can turn to YouTube to see if anyone has made a non-promotional video in which they show this product to the camera and test it.

A YouTube video narrated by an artificial voice points out a concerning issue with FivFivGo: their joint and bone therapy cream is endorsed by Dr. John Brown, complete with a photo of an older white man in a lab coat. Well, as the video reveals, this is actually a stolen portrait of Dr. Jesse Delee, a sports medicine doctor.

As for the de-icer, a Taiwanese YouTuber reveals that it is real. The product does exist. It even spins! When he opens the box, he shows, among other things, a foil packet with a sticker: “SEA ELEGANCE.” The rest of the writing looked like Chinese, so I sent a screenshot to a Chinese friend of mine who translated it. It’s a list of the sort you would see describing a scent: top notes of grapefruit and tangerine; heart notes of pineapple and lavender; and base notes of amber wood, lavender, santal wood, and oakmoss. This foil packet contains a ring made of wood. So, what is a scented wooden ring doing in a cutting-edge de-icer?

A recommended video in the right-most pane on YouTube provided more information. Rick Shaw is a drummer who cut open one of these devices—this one by a company called NHTSA yet looking identical to FivFivGo’s—and who found a solar panel and an electric motor, all made of plastic. What could a plastic puck with a basic electric motor, a solar panel, and a scented piece of wood be meant for?

A video by The Cyber Analyst provided the answer in case it wasn’t already clear. It’s an air freshener. You put it on the dashboard of your car; sunlight is collected by the solar panel; and a motor gets activated to start spinning a plastic blade around, distributing the scent from the wooden ring into the air. On the Chinese online shopping website AliExpress, these devices show up as car air fresheners and sell for CAD 10. So much for aerospace technology.

The ploy is simple. Buy cheap air fresheners from China that look modern and strange. Put them in new boxes that claim they are electromagnetic snow removing devices. Sell them on a new website you just registered and increase the price to make sure you profit from the switcheroo.

I rarely use the word “scam” to describe pseudoscience, because it implies dishonesty which can rarely be proven. But repackaging air fresheners and claiming they will thaw your car strikes me as being clearly dishonest.

Hopefully, you can follow the above steps the next time you are faced with a curious gadget that may or may not be legitimate. Your wallet will thank you.


@CrackedScience

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