Beware of diet and weight loss supplement “Free Trial” offer scams.
Every New Year, a wave of trendy resolution scams surface to capitalize on consumer’s New Year’s resolution goals. Weight loss, anyone?
Consumers who want to get in shape or lose a few pounds are at risk of being deceived by products that do not work as advertised or come with a host of unwanted side effects and trapped in monthly subscription fees.
New products like topical creams, dietary supplements, workout gadgets and appetite suppressants flood the market, promising consumers spectacular weight-loss results.
These risk-free schemes often start with an ad for a free product or an article that seems to appear on a credible news site. In one example, consumers were asked to provide credit or debit card numbers for a nominal shipping and handling charge such as $4.95 or $1.95. They were shipped a one-month supply and often charged $59.95 right away. The company continued sending – and charging for – these pills every month.
Fraudsters have turned such offers into a global multi-billion-dollar industry, one that grows every year.
A BBB study reports that consumers filed nearly 37,000 complaints, and BBB ScamTracker reports since 2015 with an average loss of $186. Through October 2019, BBB received more than 6,600 complaints and reports from consumers in the U.S. and Canada about free trial offers.
The study also found that many of the celebrity endorsements are fake, and sometimes the fine print even admits they are not real. Major lawsuits have been issued against companies using celebrity imagery and names to endorse products like skin lotions. Shark Tank Investor, Lori Greiner, recently warned consumers of a Keto Pill Scam using her credibility to sell dietary supplements.
These tips will help you evaluate weight loss supplements and other weight loss products and avoid free trial scams:
- Research the company before signing up. Many of these companies have “F” ratings with BBB. Check the product or company name by calling or visiting the BBB website to see if there are any complaints and to check if it’s a scam.
- Read all the terms and conditions of any free trial offer. Know if there is a cancellation period and return policy.
- Research celebrities claiming to endorse products to see if they are really backing it.
- Call your credit card company for a refund. If you think you have been the victim of a free trial offer scam, speak with your credit card company. Some companies may issue a refund for the money lost.
- Report the fake ads. Call your BBB to report suspicious, confusing or misleading ads to BBB Ad Truth, or to BBB ScamTracker. Consumers also can report the ad to the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov or by calling 877-FTC-Help.
Free trial offers can be legitimate ways to introduce new products, but credible companies make sure consumers understand what they are signing up for and do not hide key information.
For more information, see the Federal Trade Commission’s video on Free Trial Offer Scams.
Kelvin H. Collins, President/CEO
Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, Inc.