Weight-loss scams lighten only your wallet

Want a diet?  Stop Eating…! and be a little more active.  Once you are start doing some you will not eat out of pure boredom.

Jeanette Pavini’s Buyer Beware

May 14, 2013, 7:00 a.m. EDT

Don’t fall for false advertising or ridiculous claims

How is it that the multibillion-dollar weight-loss industry seems to make more money every year? If all the plans and pills worked, wouldn’t the amount spent by consumers decrease? And the boomer generation is the target audience here.

Most of us have enough weight-loss books to fill the shelves of the diet section in a bookstore. There’s always a different angle, a new discovery. The simple fact is, there’s only one legitimate secret to weight loss: Decrease your calorie intake and increase your activity level.

We see ads all the time for pills, patches and even creams that claim quick, easy and lasting results. But beware: the Food and Drug Administration does not necessarily review these supplements for safety and effectiveness. So it’s very important that consumers be their own advocate, resist ad claims, vet companies and recognize a false claim when they see one.

Judge weight-loss claims against this simple rule: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Turn down products that promise results without diet or exercise or a change in lifestyle, those that claim you can eat all the junk food you want, promise permanent or extremely quick results, and claim to work for every body.

While some supplements or prescription medications may get results, the vast majority of patches, creams and supplements have not proved to significantly affect weight loss.

The Federal Trade Commission says there is nothing you can wear or apply externally that will lead to weight loss.

Some scammers go one step further and create fake news sites to give you the impression that their dietary supplement is backed up by a major news organization. An actor may pose as a reporter investigating a weight-loss product’s effectiveness. They will steal a legitimate news outlet’s logo, create a similar-sounding Web address, manipulate weight- loss photos, and make grandiose albeit unsubstantiated claims.

The FTC says you may be on a fake news site if there is video or text highlighting a “reporter’s” first-hand experience using a product, there are comments or testimonials from satisfied “customers,” claims of dramatic weight loss using the product alone, or if the site has multiple links to websites where you can buy the product or redeem a free trial. See the FTC’s Red Flag website on bogus weight-loss claims.

Free trials and money-back guarantees are common in the weight-loss industry. Any time you see an offer like this, channel your inner skeptic and look for a catch. Yes, there are legitimate free trials out there and they can be a great way for consumers to test the waters, but others can be deceptive and come with so many hidden costs or stipulations, you don’t stand a chance.

Before signing up for free trials, look for consumer complaints on third-party sites like the Better Business Bureau, Ripoff Report, or Complaints Board. Even if the company is legitimate, reading these reviews can alert you to any catches you should be on the lookout for. Reading the fine print closely should also outline this information and if there is not a terms-and- conditions section visible on the site, don’t sign up.

Most free trial offers still require your credit or debit card information, but don’t gloss over pre-checked boxes, which could give a company permission to charge for other products or deliver the product—and charge your account—on a continuing basis.

Find and review the cancellation policy before signing up. Mark your calendar with the free trial’s end date and when you must cancel by to avoid charges. Check your bank statements to make sure there are no surprise charges and use a credit card for added protection.

One of the most dangerous tactics involves tainted products or those which contain risky ingredients.

The FDA reports it has discovered hundreds of dietary supplements, many of them for weight loss and bodybuilding, which contain drugs or chemicals. Usually they are not listed on the label and some mislead consumers by claiming to be “100% Natural.” Not only are these supplements being sold under false pretenses, but they could have potentially dangerous, even deadly, side effects or interactions with other medications or supplements you take.

OK, so skip the quick-fix weight-loss scams and crazy diets. Instead, consult a doctor and focus on a successful weight-loss plan that will make you healthier.

The FTC says losing a pound a week is a realistic goal for most people and it can be done by cutting about 500 calories a day from your diet, eating a variety of nutritious foods, and exercising regularly.

And how do legitimate, FDA-approved weight-loss pills work? Generally, they either block the absorption of fat or help you eat less and still feel full, but to see optimal results, they should be taken along with exercise and a diet low in calories and fat. And most importantly, always check with your doctor.

If you suspect a weight-loss product is making fraudulent claims, you can contact or your state’s Attorney General or report it to the FTC.

Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist, documentarian and author Jeanette Pavini covers consumer and investigative news for numerous publications, radio and television. Jeanette is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.





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