Many consumers are looking to lose a little extra holiday weight. BBB is ringing in 2023 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,” Mechele Mills with BBB Central East Texas Said. “There is no such thing as a miracle cure for weight loss.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns consumers of dozens of false weight-loss claims. Many consumers end up 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.
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.
To help avoid weight loss scams, BBB 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. Ask your doctor what an achievable weight loss goal for you would be.
- 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, dieticians, 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. Check the list of public notifications from the FDA regarding potentially harmful weight loss products. In Canada, check with Health Canada for guidelines.
- 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 want. Be cautious of any contract that takes payment from your credit card until you cancel.
- Research the company with BBB.org before purchasing. Read reviews about the company 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 agree to buy.
- Report the deceptive ads. 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. Call your BBB to report suspicious, confusing, or misleading ads to BBB Ad Truth or report a scam with BBB ScamTracker.