by: Better business office
Posted: Feb 14, 2021 / 2:52 PM CST
Updated: February 14, 2021 / 2:52 p.m. CST
(Photo: Getty Images)
BBB – Consumers spent much of 2020 in a socially distant environment, and opportunities to hit the gym or other preferred workout class were limited unless they were online.
Now many people are looking for ways to shed the COVID 15 – the number of pounds that on average gained during the shutdown and are staying at home. Desperate to lose that weight, people fall victim to overrated ads and weight loss scams.
Desiring to get in shape quickly or lose weight runs the risk of being fooled by products that don’t work as advertised, have a variety of undesirable side effects, or actually result in weight gain instead.
Always be very skeptical when seeing miracle weight loss claims. There is no “secret ingredient” or “breakthrough formula” that can lead to weight loss virtually overnight. Promotions promoting “miraculous” weight loss products that promise instant results should be viewed as a potential scam.
Often times, when these products are delivered as promised, they do not produce the results reported or can have potentially dangerous side effects.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in an October 2019 report found that more consumers were the victims of fraudulent weight loss products fraud in 2017 than any other type of scam surveyed.
According to the report, victims of weight loss scams accounted for 2.6 percent of the polls, the equivalent of 6.5 million adults in the United States. These respondents said they had bought and used products such as body wraps, topical creams, nutritional supplements, skin patches, and even earrings that promise to “melt”, “flush”, “burn” or “dissolve” unwanted fat.
Fraudulent weight loss products are often advertised along with pictures of celebrities and fake endorsements. In addition, misleading free trials are widespread, as the BBB 2018 study researched: “Subscription traps and misleading free trials scam millions with misleading ads and fake celebrity endorsements.” BBB ScamTracker have submitted reports related to misleading free trial offers and fake celebrity endorsements, with an average loss per victim of $ 186.
Many consumer complaints have stated that weight loss programs are difficult to cancel even if the product does not work as advertised. Some consumers said they believed they made a one-time purchase, but then received recurring charges to their credit cards for more products. When they reached out to customer service, they were informed that they had signed up for a subscription which was only listed in the fine print of the terms and conditions of their original purchase. When they tried to contact the company to cancel, the company claimed the item had already been shipped and the consumer went out of their way to get a refund for the product that was shipped.
Weight loss fraud can be avoided – here’s how
- Always be wary of advertisements and referrals that promise “miracle” results or instant weight loss. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the evidence suggests that gradually losing 1 to 2 pounds per week is a healthy goal and is more successful at achieving long-term weight loss. Ask your doctor what an achievable weight loss goal would be for you.
- Determine your fitness goals. It’s hard work to lose weight. Find a program that you can stick with, preferably one that you enjoy. Does a Weight Loss Plan Need Special Foods? Can you quit if you move or find that the program doesn’t meet your needs or is more expensive than expected?
- Avoid products that claim to help you lose weight without dieting or exercising. Be especially skeptical of claims that you don’t have to cut out your favorite foods or reduce the amount you consume. Doctors, dietitians, and other experts agree that losing weight takes work. Leave effortlessly to any product that promises miraculous results.
- Check the ingredients of a product with the FDA. Be suspicious of taking special pills, powders, or herbs. Some products have been recalled because they contain ingredients with potentially dangerous effects. Check the list of FDA public notices related to potentially harmful weight loss products. In Canada, you can find guidelines at Health Canada.
- Be wary of a lack of ingredient list. Some companies have been accused of failing to promote certain ingredients that have harmful side effects or that can mix adversely with prescription drugs.
- Read all of the terms and conditions for each weight loss product. Before you click Check Out or Buy, make sure the cart contains only the items you want to buy and that you are not signing up for a subscription unless it is an option. Be wary of contracts where payment is made from your credit card until you cancel.
- If you participate in online forums and chat rooms that focus on topics such as weight loss and fitness, use caution when people offer products that they claim will help you achieve goals quickly.
- Before buying, do some research on the company at BBB.org. Read reviews of the company to see if there are any complaints indicating it was a scam.
- Be careful with free trial offers and understand all terms and conditions before signing up. These offers can become “subscription traps” that trap consumers in expensive deliveries of products that they have not agreed to purchase.
- Report the misleading ads. Be suspicious of ridiculously positive testimonials on the company website. Testimonials become a simple marketing tool and can be easily faked. These are often accompanied by wonderful before and after pictures. Call your BBB to report suspicious, confusing, or misleading ads to BBB Ad Truth.
To find a company you can trust, visit BBB.org. To report a scam, go to BBB.org/ScamTracker.
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