Consumers spent much of 2020 in a socially distant environment, and options to go to the gym or other favorite work out class were limited, unless they were online. Better Business Bureau is ringing in 2021 with tips to help people avoid falling prey to overstated weight loss advertisements and scams. The desire to get in shape or lose weight fast creates a risk of being deceived by products that do not work as advertised, come with a host of unwanted side effects, or cause weight gain instead.
Any time you see miracle claims for weight loss, be very skeptical. There is no such thing as a ‘secret ingredient’ or ‘breakthrough formula’ that can result in weight loss virtually overnight.
The Federal Trade Commision (FTC) noted in an October 2019 report that 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.
Promotions advertising “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, as investigated in the 2018 BBB study, “Subscription Traps and Deceptive Free Trials Scam Millions with Misleading Ads and Fake Celebrity Endorsements.” The study reported that consumers filed nearly 37,000 complaints and BBB ScamTracker reports related to deceptive free trial offers and fake celebrity endorsements since 2015, with an average loss per victim of $186.
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.
In other, similar complaints, consumers described being notified of an additional shipment of the weight loss product that they did not order. When they tried to contact the company to cancel, the company claimed the item had already shipped, and the consumer struggled to receive a refund for the shipped product.
Many consumers also filed complaints after being unable to reach the weight loss goals stated in advertising for the product.
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