You've seen the ads all over the Internet and on television. "Lose the love handles," "shed weight fast," "Drop 10 pounds in a week." But many of these offers are aimed at shrinking your bank account, not your waistline. Whether it's the ubiquitous acai berry or other products promising huge results, here are some signs that a weight loss solution is really a scam.
- Watch for buzzwords: Is it a "miracle" "revolutionary" "secret" "scientific breakthrough"?
- Does it promise results without exercise or eating healthier?
- Is the key factor of success a particular ingredient, food or gadget?
- Does it require a contract or large advance payment? Or is there a free trial, with strings?
The dangers of weight loss scams are twofold. First, there is a real risk to your health. You have no way of knowing what these treatments or medicines contain or how they might impact you. Second, your personal information and finances could be compromised. Free trials are often just a way to sign you up for more costly and hidden charges -- and to steal your personal information.
Many products promise no risk money-back guarantees, only to simply disappear when consumers try to cancel or get a refund. For example, check out the story of Jesse Willms, who, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleges, defrauded consumers of $467 million through "risk-free" trials, including for a "dizzying variety" of acai pills.
Here's what to do to stop the scam:
- Talk to a medical professional. If you think you need, or want, to lose weight, discuss your options with a health care professional such as a dietician or your personal doctor. They'll be able to tell you whether a product is safe and effective.
- Contact your financial institution. If you've already made a payment for a product or service, contact your credit card company and/or bank and tell them that you may have fallen victim to a fraud. They'll advise you on cancelling payments and ensuring your finances remain secure.
- Report your experience. Think you've been the victim of a scam or know of a scam being perpetrated on others? File a complaint with the Attorney General's Office or contact the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center.
For more information about specific types of weight-loss scams, visit the FTC and the Food and Drug Administration.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network connects you to the latest information about ID theft and fraud so you can safeguard your personal information and your pocketbook.
Share this alert with your family and friends so they know how to spot the common strategies scammers use and have the tools they need to defend themselves against their tricks.
This is a message from AARP Washington and the Washington State Attorney General's Office. If you or someone you know has been a victim of identity theft or fraud, you can contact the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Center at 1-800-646-2283 for help.