The New Year can be a difficult and confusing time for consumers whose resolutions involve getting into shape. Better Business Bureau Serving Metropolitan New York is ringing in 2020 with tips to avoid falling prey to overstated weight loss advertisements and scams.
“Any time you see miracle claims for weight loss, you have to very skeptical,” says Claire Rosenzweig, President and CEO of BBB Serving Metropolitan New York. “There is no such thing as a ‘secret ingredient’ or ‘breakthrough formula’ that can result in weight loss virtually overnight.”
In an October 2019 report about mass-market consumer fraud, the FTC noted that more consumers reported falling 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 that advertise “miraculous” weight loss products and promise immediate results should be viewed as potential scams. These products – if received at all after purchase – 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 ScamTrackerSM reports related to deceptive free trial offers and fake celebrity endorsements since 2015, with an average loss per victim of $186.
To help avoid weight loss scams, BBB of Metro New York recommends the following:
- 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.
- Check a product’s ingredients with the FDA. Some products have been recalled for containing ingredients with potentially dangerous effects. A list of public notifications from the FDA regarding potentially harmful weight loss products can be found here.
- When participating in online forums and chat rooms focused on weight loss and fitness topics, be wary of individuals pushing products they claim will help you reach your goals.
- Research the company with bbb.org before purchasing. Many companies peddling “miracle” weight loss products have “F” ratings with BBB. Check the product or company name by checking bbb.org and searching the internet in general to see if there are any complaints alleging that it’s a scam.
- Be wary of free trial offers, and before signing up, understand all the terms and conditions. These deals can become “subscription traps” that hook consumers into expensive shipments of products they did not explicitly agree to buy.
- Report the deceptive ads. Call your BBB to report suspicious, confusing or misleading ads to BBB Ad Truth or report a scam with BBB ScamTrackerSM.
- Consumers can also report the ad to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by calling 877-FTC-Help.
- You can also report fake ads to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2018, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Profiles on nearly 5.4 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at BBB.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Metropolitan New York, which was founded in 1922 and serves New York City, Long Island, and the Mid-Hudson region. Visit BBB.org for more information.