Over the past year, consumers have been pent up inside their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This may have caused some of the population to experience weight gain and many are looking for ways to shed a few extra pounds.

This can turn into a pay day for scammers. The desire to get in shape or lose weight fast can lead to people being deceived by products that do not work as advertised.

Promotions advertising “miraculous” weight loss products and promising immediate results should be viewed as potential scams. These products are often ineffective in delivering their promised results, or worse, can have potentially dangerous side effects.

Weight loss programs and apps can also be scams. Advertised on social media sites by scammers posing as popular influencers, these apps often offer a free trial which can be notoriously hard to cancel, leaving consumers on the hook for monthly fees or disputing the charges with their credit card company.

Use BBB’s tips when searching for supplements and diet pills:

Always be wary of advertisements and customer endorsements promising “miracle” results or immediate weight loss. According to the CDC, evidence suggests gradual loss of 1-2 pounds per week is a healthy goal and is more successful for achieving long-term weight loss. Ask your doctor what an achievable weight loss goal for you would be.

Determine your fitness goals. It’s hard work to lose weight. Find a program you can stick with, preferably one that you enjoy. Does a weight loss plan require special foods? Can you cancel if you move or find that the program doesn’t meet your needs or is more expensive than anticipated?

Avoid products that claim to help you lose weight without diet or exercise. Be especially skeptical of claims that you don’t have to give up favorite foods or reduce the amount you consume. Doctors, dieticians and other experts agree that losing weight takes work.

Check a product’s ingredients with the FDA. Be suspicious of taking special pills, powders or herbs. Some products have been recalled for containing ingredients with potentially dangerous effects. Check the list of public notifications from the FDA regarding potentially harmful weight loss products.

Read all terms and conditions for any weight loss product. Before clicking check out, make sure the cart only includes the items you wish to purchase, and does not include signing up for a subscription, unless this is an option you want. Be cautious of any contract that takes payment from your credit card until you cancel.

When participating in online forums and chat rooms focused on weight loss and fitness topics, be wary of individuals pushing products they claim will help quickly reach goals.

Research the company with BBB.org before purchasing. Read reviews about the company to see if there are any complaints alleging it’s a scam.

Be wary of free trial offers, and before signing up, understand all the terms and conditions. These deals can become “subscription traps” that hook consumers into expensive shipments of products they did not agree to buy.

If you spot a scam, whether you’ve lost money or not, report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your story can help other consumers avoid similar scams.

Marjorie Stephens is president and CEO of the BBB serving Northern Indiana.

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