Did you resolve to lose weight this year? Even if you didn’t, it likely comes as no surprise that losing weight is one of the most popular resolutions year after year—along with exercising more and eating healthier.
Because so many people are looking to get fit in the new year, scammers are using it to their advantage, according to the Better Business Bureau.The BBB has received several recent reports from consumers about scams involving vitamins, supplements and weight loss formulas that claim to offer rapid results. The only real result consumers get when buying these phony products is a loss of money.
Here’s what to know about weight loss product scams and how to avoid them.
How weight loss product scams work
Weight loss product scams typically begin with ads on social media sites, as well as on TV and print publications. According to the BBB, they tout products such as body wraps, topical creams, dietary supplements, skin patches and even earrings that "melt," "flush," "burn" or "dissolve" away unwanted fat fast.
In addition to promising fast results, these ads feature before-and-after pictures of people who supposedly used the products, glowing reviews and claims that the products have been featured on TV shows such as Shark Tank.
However, the ads are misleading, and the products don’t deliver what is promised. In fact, many of these phony weight loss products contain harmful ingredients, according to the BBB.
Plus, some of the companies selling these products use unethical sales tactics. Consumers have complained about being unable to cancel orders and get refunds. Some have reported to the BBB Scam Tracker that they thought they were making a one-time purchase but discovered that they were being repeatedly billed for a subscription.
For example, one consumer reported buying keto gummies that were advertised as a weight loss product supported by the Shark Tank program. The price was advertised as $52.44 to buy one bottle, get one free. However, the consumer was charged $104.88 and was told by the company that the order couldn’t be canceled. So the consumer followed the company’s return instructions to send the gummies back for a refund. When calling the company a week later to check the refund status, the consumer was told that the company didn’t have a refund policy.
How to avoid weight loss product scams
Although the promise of rapid weight loss is appealing, it’s important to recognize when you’re hearing or seeing claims that are too good to be true. The BBB recommends taking the following steps to avoid falling for weight loss product scams.
- Be wary of promises of miracle results. Ads for questionable weight loss products typically include false promises, such as claims that the product will make you lose weight permanently or that you can lose weight without diet, exercise or any effort.
- Don't trust endorsements. Don’t believe a product is legitimate just because it appears to have endorsements. Weight loss product ads featuring celebrity images or TV show logos might not have permission to feature those images or logos. Research the company at BBB.org to see if there are complaints about it or do an online search for the company name and the words “review,” “complaints” and “scam.”
- Check a product's ingredients. Companies might tout certain ingredients their products have in ads. However, you need to dig deeper to make sure you know everything that is in a product. According to the BBB, some companies have been accused of not advertising certain ingredients that have harmful side effects or mix adversely with prescription drugs. Before you buy, check the list of FDA notifications about potentially harmful weight loss products. Also, check the websites of weight loss products for a list of product ingredients. If you can’t find an ingredient list, don’t buy the product.
- Be wary of free trial offers. Read all of the terms and conditions of the offer before signing up. If you don’t read the fine print, you could find yourself on the hook for a subscription you don’t want. Plus, make sure when purchasing any weight loss products online that your cart includes only the items you want and ensure that you aren’t inadvertently signed up for recurring shipments if you only want to make a one-time purchase.
- Talk to your doctor before buying any weight loss products or signing up for a weight loss plan. Your doctor’s advice should carry more weight (no pun intended) than what ads on social media sites are touting.
If you see deceptive weight loss product ads, report them to BBB Ad Truth, the Federal Trade Commission or the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.