The “miracle”, “innovative” and “fast and safe” ways to lose weigh have been offered around for centuries — people have aways worried about their weight. The difference now is the internet has made it so much easier for fraudsters to reach potential victims.The majority of weight-loss scams are conducted online via searches, adverts, spam emails or social networks.
Scammers promise that you will achieve great results without having to do any extra exercise or even change your diet. They may offer ‘revolutionary’ exercise or fat-busting devices, an unusual or restrictive diet, or products — pills, patches, creams or weight-loss exercise equipment. The promise of easy weight loss makes it all too tempting to open our wallets and sign up for pills or schemes that will only make us lose the wrong sort of pounds.
To sell the products fraudsters often use pictures of attractive people before and after weight loss. These may be people with a different body shape and metabolism to you and who use the product in conjunction with an exercise regime and strict diet.
As consumers are becoming increasingly aware of diet scams, so many scammers offer false assurances that they are legitimate. In the case of diet scams, slick websites and fake testimonials from non-existent customers unfortunately often do the trick.
At best fad diets and products might result in a temporary weight loss in the short term and can be dangerous if followed over a longer period. Unless a person develops and maintains a better diet and physical activity habit, any weight lost (often water or muscle rather than fat) will soon return.
The weight loss scheme or product:
• lacks scientific evidence or demonstrated links between the result and the effects of the program, food, supplement, gadget or process being promoted
• is sold outside normal commercial distribution channels. For example, through the internet, by unqualified individuals or mail order advertisements
• claims effortless, large or fast weight loss such as ‘lose 30 kilos in 30 days’ or ‘lose weight while you sleep’
• claims that you can achieve weight loss without exercise, or without managing food or energy intake
• fails to recommend medical supervision, particularly for low-calorie diets
• claims to reduce fat or cellulite in specific areas of the body
• uses terms such as ‘miraculous breakthrough’
• recommends the exclusive use of any type of gadget
• claims it is a treatment for a wide range of ailments and nutritional deficiencies
• promotes a particular ingredient, compound or food as the key factor of success
• demands large advance payments or requires you to enter into long-term contracts.
How to avoid diet scam
• Remember there are no magic pills or safe options for rapid weight loss.
• Be very careful about offers for medicines, supplements or other treatments: always seek the advice of your health care professional.
• ALWAYS get independent advice if an offer involves significant money, time or commitment.
• Read all the terms and conditions of any offer very carefully: claims of free or very cheap offers often have hidden costs.
What to do if you spot the scam
If you have taken medicines that could be part of a scam, contact your doctor. Tell your bank as soon as possible if you revealed your bank account or credit card details. You may be able to claim losses back from your credit or debit card provider.