CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Consumers spent much of 2020 socially distancing.
Options to go to the gym or other workout classes were limited unless they were online.
The Better Business Bureau is ringing in 2021 with tips to help people avoid falling prey to misleading weight-loss advertisements and scams. The desire of many to get in shape or lose weight puts some at risk of being a target for scammers.
"Anytime you see miracle claims for weight loss, be very skeptical," said Katie Galan of the Better Business Bureau. "There is no such thing as a ‘secret ingredient’ or ‘breakthrough formula’ that can result in weight loss virtually overnight."
The Federal Trade Commission noted in a 2019 report, more consumers fell victim to scams involving fraudulent weight loss products in 2017 than to any other type of fraud included in the survey.
According to the report, victims of weight loss scams made up 2.6 percent of the survey participants, representing 6.5 million U.S. adults. These survey respondents reported purchasing and using products such as body wraps, topical creams, dietary supplements, skin patches, and even earrings promising to “melt,” “flush,” “burn,” or “dissolve” away unwanted fat.
Galan says promotion advertising offering “miraculous” weight loss products and promising immediate results should be viewed as potential scams. These products, if delivered as promised, are often ineffective in delivering their promised results, or worse can have potentially dangerous side effects.
Fraudulent weight loss products are often advertised alongside images of celebrities and fake endorsements. Additionally, deceptive free trial offers are very common.
Many consumer complaints described weight loss programs as difficult to cancel, even if the product doesn't work as claimed in the ads.
Some consumers say they believed they were making a one-time purchase but then received recurring charges to their credit cards for more of the product. When they contacted customer service, they were informed that they had signed up for a subscription, which was only disclosed in the fine print of the terms and conditions of their original purchase.
Many consumers have filed complaints after being unable to reach the weight loss goals stated in advertising for the product.
To help avoid weight loss scams, Galan suggests following these tips:
- Always be wary of advertisements and customer endorsements promising “miracle” results or immediate weight loss. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, evidence suggests gradual loss of 1-2 pounds per week is a healthy goal and is more successful for achieving long-term weight loss. Ask your doctor what an achievable weight loss goal for you would be.
- Determine your fitness goals. It’s hard work to lose weight. Find a program you can stick with, preferably one that you enjoy.
- Avoid products that claim to help lose weight without diet or exercise. Be especially skeptical of claims that you don’t have to give up favorite foods or reduce the amount you consume. Doctors, dietitians, and other experts agree that losing weight takes work. Pass up any product that promises miraculous results without any effort.
- Check a product’s ingredients with the FDA. Be suspicious of taking special pills, powders or herbs. Some products have been recalled for containing ingredients with potentially dangerous effects.
- Read all terms and conditions for any weight-loss product. Before clicking check out or purchase, make sure the cart only includes the items you wish to purchase, and does not include signing up for a subscription unless this is an option. Be cautious of any contract that takes payment from your credit card until you cancel.
Be suspicious of ridiculously positive testimonials on the company website. Testimonials become an easy marketing tool and are easily faked. These are often accompanied by glorious before and after pictures.
Many times, you can get locked into more than you thought you were buying, with future charges placed on your card. And if you would like to check out a product or business always log onto BBB.Org for more.