The season of New Year’s resolutions is here. Many of our resolutions involve losing weight. Overstated weight loss plan advertisements have been filling TV and radio airwaves, as well as social media sites and our email subject lines, since December. Many consumers who want to get in shape or lose weight risk being deceived by products that do not work as advertised or come with a host of unwanted side effects.
The Better Business Bureau is ringing in 2021 with tips to avoid falling prey to new creams, pills, drinks or fad diets that promise spectacular weight-loss results.
BBB has long warned that any time you see miracle claims for weight loss, you should be very skeptical. As of now, there is no such thing as a “secret ingredient” or “breakthrough formula” that can result in weight loss virtually overnight. More consumers report falling victim to scams involving fraudulent weight-loss products than to any other type of fraud.
Those “miraculous” weight loss products and their promises of immediate results should seriously be viewed as potential scams. These products are often ineffective in delivering their promised results (if they are delivered to the purchaser at all), or worse, can have potentially dangerous side effects.
Be sure to read the “fine print.” Many consumer complaints say weight loss programs are difficult to cancel, even if the product doesn’t work as claimed in the ads. Some consumers said they believed they were making a one-time purchase but then received recurring charges to their credit cards for more of the product. When the consumer contacted customer service, they were informed that they had signed up for a subscription, which was disclosed in the terms and conditions of their original purchase.
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. Scientific evidence suggests gradual loss of one to two pounds per week is a healthy goal and is more successful for achieving long-term weight loss. Speak with your doctor about what an achievable weight loss goal for you would be.
• Determine your fitness goals. Find a program you can stick with, preferably one you can enjoy. Are you required to buy special foods? Can you cancel if you move or find that the program doesn’t meet your needs?
• Avoid products that claim to help you lose weight without diet or exercise and be skeptical of claims that you don’t have to give up favorite foods or reduce the amount you consume. 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. Check the list of public notifications from the FDA regarding potentially harmful weight-loss products.
• Be wary of a lack of ingredient list. Some companies have been accused of not advertising certain ingredients that can come with harmful side effects or react adversely with prescription drugs you may be taking.
• Read all terms and conditions for any weight loss product you buy. Make sure that you are purchasing only the items you wish to purchase and are not signing up for a subscription. Be cautious of any contract that takes payment from your credit card until you cancel.
• 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 going to bbb.org.
• Be wary of free trial offers. These deals can become “subscription traps” that hook consumers into expensive shipments of products they did not explicitly agree to buy.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.