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Buying health supplements or weight loss pills online? Read this first

New year, new you. You may not have hosted the most traditional New Year’s Eve celebration this year, but many of us still made our annual resolutions like we do every year.

Typical New Year’s Resolutions often include things like getting in shape, exercising more or losing weight. You may have committed to something similar this year to help eliminate the quarantine weight many of us are gaining as we try to pass the time indoors.

Related: 10 digital housekeeping tips for your time in quarantine

If losing weight is a goal, you may be tempted to add supplements or weight loss products to the mix to help reach them. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you do need to be careful of what you’re buying. A new report is out on what to watch for when shopping for these types of products. Here’s what you should know before buying.

BBB report on weight loss products and supplements

Most health or fitness professionals will tell you that there’s nothing wrong with using supplements or weight loss products to kick start your health journey. Still, while you could end up with a product that’s a winner, you may end up with something that doesn’t work or is a scam if you aren’t careful.

The new report issued by the Better Business Bureau offers insight into how common it is to fall prey to fake weight-loss claims and scams. People who want to lose weight are an easy target for being deceived by products that don’t always work as advertised. These products may also have unwanted side effects or cause you to gain weight instead.

According to the BBB, these victims comprised 2.6% of the total survey participants. That averages out to 6.5 million U.S. adults who fell victim to buying these types of fraudulent products.

An October 2019 report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) noted that more consumers fell victim to fraudulent weight loss product scams in 2017 than to any other type of fraud in the survey. These products include body wraps, topical creams, dietary supplements, skin patches, and even more unusual products, like earrings that promise to melt, burn, flush or dissolve away unwanted fat. 

These types of products are alluring for several reasons: they promise to help you quickly lose weight with little or no work, and they’re often backed by celebrities or fake endorsements that make them seem like the real thing. Free trials are also a way to lure victims in, according to the BBB.

In fact, since 2015, consumers have filed nearly 37,000 complaints and BBB ScamTracker reports related to deceptive free trial offers and fake celebrity endorsements. The average loss per victim is about $186 — which isn’t an insignificant amount for many people.

Related: Four dangerous cryptocurrency scams the FBI is warning about

Many of these complaints are related to free trial offers, which consumers say are hard to cancel or aren’t really free. Others filed complaints about unauthorized charges to their credit cards for more of the product. There are also issues with consumers thinking that they are making one-time purchases of the product, which they later realize were subscriptions for ongoing product delivery.

And, unsurprisingly, there are also regular complaints made to the BBB after people — who are promised a specific amount of weight loss from a product — cannot reach the weight loss goals stated in the product’s advertising. 

How to avoid being scammed by weight loss products and supplements

Given the potential issues that come from ordering scammy or fraud weight loss products and supplements, you need to be careful when buying these types of products.

Related: The worst identity theft you’ve never heard of

To help avoid weight loss scams:

  • Be wary of products promising “miracle” results or immediate weight loss. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. No over-the-counter supplement or weight loss product is going to help you lose a ton of weight in a month — so don’t fall for it.
  • Be skeptical of claims a product helps you lose weight without diet or exercise. Diet and exercise changes are a huge part of losing weight. Any product that states otherwise is probably not being truthful, so pass on it.
  • Cross-check ingredients with the FDA. Don’t take special pills, powders or herbs without doing your homework. Many of these types of products have been recalled for being dangerous. You can start by checking the list of public notifications from the FDA regarding potentially harmful weight loss products.
  • Read all terms and conditions. You don’t want to end up with a subscription you can’t cancel or a product you can’t return.
  • Be wary of free trial offers. These deals are often “subscription traps” — and that could end up costing you way more than you bargained for.

You can also check BBB Scam Tracker to research and report scams like these. Checking the BBB will help you avoid scam companies or products.

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