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By: AgFed Credit Union

Welcome to AgFed Credit Union's MoneyDig blog! 

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Don't Get Caught in a Weight-Loss Scam

 Jun 06, 2024
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Those New Year’s resolutions are already collecting dust, but with beach season fast approaching, you may be desperate to finally shed some pounds. Watch out! Scammers know this, and they’re out to trap you in one of their ruses with the promise of rapid, guaranteed weight loss that’s practically effortless. 

Don’t fall into their trap! Let’s take a look at the various weight-loss scams, red flags that can alert you to a possible ruse and steps you can take to avoid getting scammed.

Types of weight-loss scams

Weight-loss scams come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some of the more common weight loss scams:

  1. Pseudoscience and gimmicks

Many weight-loss scams hide behind pseudoscientific jargon or use gimmicky gadgets to lend an air of legitimacy to their claims. Terms like “metabolic boosting,” “fat-burning zone,” or “cellulite-blasting technology” may sound impressive, but they generally lack credible scientific evidence.

  1. Hidden costs and auto-billing

Some scams lure consumers in with free trials or low introductory fees. Once the victim is part of the program, they’ll be hit with steep fees and membership dues. The “weight-loss program” will also require you to sign up for auto-billing and make it difficult or impossible for you to cancel your membership.

  1. Magic pills and supplements

These products claim to melt away fat, suppress appetite or boost your metabolism with little to no effort required. Unfortunately, though, many – if not most – of these supplements are unregulated and may contain harmful ingredients or ineffective doses.

  1. Extreme fad diets

Fad diets come and go like trending memes. From beet juice cleanses to food plans consisting solely of cabbage soup, these diets promise super-rapid weight loss by severely restricting calorie intake or eliminating entire food groups. While they may result in short-term weight loss, fad diets are generally unsustainable and can lead to nutritional deficiencies and long-term health complications.

How can I spot a weight-loss scam?

Look out for these red flags which can alert you to a possible weight-loss scam:

  • Specific time frames and goals. If a weight-loss product or plan promises that you’ll lose a specific number of pounds in a set amount of time, run the other way and don’t look back. No one can tell you you’ll lose 10 pounds in a week or melt three inches off your waist without exercise. 
  • Free or low-cost introductory period. Be extra-wary of a weight-loss program that offers membership for no or at low cost for a short time, but requires you to sign up for a long-term membership. 
  • Manipulative marketing tactics. Scammers often prey on individuals’ insecurities and emotions, using before-and-after photos, bogus celebrity endorsements and fabricated testimonials to create a sense of urgency and desperation. This emotional manipulation makes it difficult for consumers to separate fact from fiction.
  • Lots of scientific jargon. If you can barely make heads or tails of the copy on the weight-loss ad, you may be looking at a scam. 
  • ‘Detox’ language. Don’t automatically believe an ad that tells you our bodies need outside help to get rid of natural toxins. The body actually has a built-in filtering system through the liver, kidneys and other organs. Eating lots of produce, fiber and exercising regularly can help your body clean out toxins in an effective manner.

How to avoid weight-loss scams

If you’re looking to join a weight-loss program and getting scammed is not on your to-do list this month, follow these steps to stay safe:

First, stay clear of any program that features any of the red flags described here. Next, carefully research any program you are considering by looking up online reviews, reaching out to previous participants and searching the program name with the word “scam” to see what the internet spits out. Don’t sign up for auto-billing unless you see a clear and reasonable cancellation policy. Finally, if you’re still stuck, consult with a professional, such as a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer or health care provider for personalized guidance and support on your weight-loss journey.

Shedding those stubborn pounds is never easy. Scammers want you to believe there’s an easy way out, but all you’ll lose by signing up for their bogus programs is a boatload of money. Use the tips outlined here to stay safe.