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Today, popular scams are pills, powders, patches, and herbal teas that supposedly promote weight loss.
One recent scam was a powder taken a few hours before sleep. Kopko states, “It promised that fat would “melt away” while you slept. The only benefit was that person gave up their bedtime snack when they took it; there was nothing in powder to help. And person who bought powder was then deluged with other products from company that would ‘make product work better.’ It was all a huge fraud.”
Dr. Bruner has also seen a variety of weight loss scams over years. She states, “I’ve seen people wearing inserts in their shoes; manufacturers claim that they hit pressure points to relieve hunger (it doesn’t work). Another scam is a ‘“chocolate patch’ designed to reduce cravings for chocolate, or wearing special clothing to spot reduce areas.” She notes that in Europe, another popular weight loss fad is getting attention: “In Europe, right now mesotherapy, injecting a drug into muscle, is a very popular fraud.”
FTC’s sokesperson Shirley Rooker notes that FTC recently stopped another popular weight loss scam-and company was forced to pay back millions to consumers taken in by its fraudulent ads. She notes, “The Enforma System claimed that its products increase body’s capacity to burn fat and would help body burn more calories while just standing or sitting around doing nothing, even while sleeping. And TV ads stated that consumers could enjoy fried chicken, pizza, and other high-calorie, high-fat products and still lose weight. The FTC complaint charged that there was no proof that Fat Trapper and Exercise in a Bottle really worked.”1
Why Aren’t They Stopped?
With huge numbers of weight loss frauds out there (it only takes opening up a magazine, or surfing Internet to view some), question of why they are allowed to continue is raised.
Kopko says, “I get a lot of calls from people who ask, ‘Why isn’t something being done?’ about a scam. Basically, answer is: until we receive complaints, a fraud can’t be investigated.” She adds that many times, people who are scammed don’t file reports. “They don’t want bother, or they don’t know where to turn. The complaints we get are probably only a fraction of problem that’s out there.”
She warns that not being shut down is not a guarantee of reliability. “Just because a business is out there, selling weight loss products doesn’t mean they’re legitimate; it may just be that they haven’t been caught yet. This is why it’s so important to be an aware consumer. “
Once complaints are made, law enforcement will step in and start investigating weight loss frauds. They often prosecute illegal businesses, and force them to make restitution to their victims. But Kopko shares that not every questionable weight loss product can be dealt with in this manner: “Some scams might not be illegal-just unethical. They market their products in a way that implies benefits, instead of stating them outright, and skirt legal boundaries of false advertising.”
In some cases, stopping a fraud takes time because of decision over who has jurisdiction, and time needed to gather data to begin prosecuting a company. For instance, FDA’s Moica Revelle states that they only have jurisdiction over scams in which a product is proven to be unsafe. “We monitor quality and safety of weight loss products; but we don’t have jurisdiction if there’s no evidence of harm done.”
In many cases of false advertising, FTC steps in, and uses information gathered by other agencies to make their case against a company. Kopko states that Better Business Bureau, while not having jurisdiction itself, make their task easier. “We keep information about businesses on file, including complaints against them, and share this with law enforcement and government agencies.”
How To Protect Yourself From Scams
One of best methods of protecting yourself from weight loss scams is to seek medical advice from a qualified physician who specializes in weight loss (bariatric medicine). At times, this means first coming to terms with a realistic view of weight loss. Dr. Bruner states, “Losing weight isn’t simple or easy.
Basically, it means reducing calories and exercising, but it must be individualized to person’s needs. For instance, person with insulin resistance needs a higher protein, lower carbohydrate diet so they won’t feel that they’re starving; and those with allergies (such as to wheat or yeast) will need a diet that avoids these items.”
To protect yourself from scams, check product out first with your physician. And if possible, try to avoid “impulse buying”. First investigate product and company’s reliability with consumer organizations. This can save you needless expense and disappointment in long run.
Another method of avoiding scams is to visit sites that investigate consumer frauds-and check out a company before buying. Kopko states, “The Better Business Bureau is a participant with Sentinel Database (online at www.consumer.gov/sentinel ) which allows consumers and law enforcement to view trends and complaints against businesses. You can also go online to our national web site at www.bbb.org to check out a company nationally. Just click on “consumer info” link, and look up diet fads and scams that have been reported.”
Weight loss scams are on rise, and numbers of companies using fraudulent advertising are multiplying. By taking time to carefully investigate a company and its products, and choosing to work with a qualified physician on your weight loss goals, you can save yourself needless expense and disappointment. Best of all, you can get started on road to real, achievable weight loss goals while maintaining good health.
Fitness Consultant Anthony Ellis has helped thousands of individuals lose fat and build more muscle. To read more about his fat loss recommendations please check out his site at http://www.fatlosstips.com