Ate too much during the holidays? Now be on guard for the weight-loss scams
Weight-loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy have been all the rage lately, but with the holiday season wrapping up, so are weight-loss scams.
Experts say now is the time when ads promoting “miracle” weight-loss cures start popping up in droves, looking to take advantage of people who have made New Year’s resolutions to lose weight.
“As the new year rolls around, we’re sure to hear lots of ‘new year, new you’ advertising around health and fitness products. But some of those promotions are just scams out to get your money,” the Federal Trade Commission said in a public warning to consumers.
Weight loss is a big business. NovoNordisk
has become the most valuable publicly traded company in Europe while Eli Lilly
has become the world’s most valuable pharmaceutical company, largely due to weight-loss drugs that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. But nearly half of Americans try to lose weight every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making them a ripe target for scams.
Bogus “miracle” weight-loss cures are as old as time. From phony elixirs and tonics, to appetite-supressing “Trim-Aid Cigarettes” and special “Vision Dieter Glasses” that made food look less appetizing, the world has been long been rife with such scams.
These kinds of pitches for pills, creams or patches remain rampant but usually include dead giveaways that they are scams, the FTC says. One good rule of thumb is if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Here are some things to look out for when considering a diet:
Spurious weight-loss programs will tell you anything to get you to buy their products. So if the ad promises their program will help you lose weight without having to watch your diet or having to do any exercise, it’s a scam. Any program that says all you have to do to lose weight is to take a pill is not going to work. The same goes for ads that claim their program will help you lose 30 pounds in 30 days or will help you lose weight permanently. There is no magic way to lose weight without diet and exercise, experts say.
One common tactic of weight-loss scams is to claim a new discovery has been made that will help you shed pounds. These are often dressed up to look like “news” articles or include dubious testimonials from supposed medical personnel. It is not uncommon for scammers to steal logos from real medical organizations and news outlets to make their claims look real. And some of those testimonials are simply made up, according to the FTC. Before and after photos purporting to show dramatic weight loss, are sometimes altered or falsely presented.
Regulators warn that some of the products being sold include substances that are banned in the U.S. or are actually harmful to your health. Buyers should beware of what they are ingesting.
Read the fine print
Some programs claim to offer a free trial up front, but consumers should always read the contract closely, as they often may be inadvertently signing up for a long-term commitment that may not always be easy to get out of, health experts say. Gym memberships should also be closely scrutinized as they can contain clauses that commit you to something you didn’t necessarily want.