Guide: Be mindful of health and weight loss scams! Here are some tips.
The New York state Division of Consumer Protection is reminding consumers of the dangers of deceptive ads for products that promise weight loss or improved health.
Misleading ads prey on people’s desires for a quick fix or miracle cure - cheating you out of money. Some products, and programs, could also be dangerous to your health.
"Be aware of products that over-promise unrealistic results that may be detrimental to your wallet and to your health,” says New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.
According to the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Sentinel Network data, this was one of the top 10 fraud categories in 2021, costing U.S. consumers $17 million in losses.
Below are some tips to avoid health and weight loss scams.
1. Look out forbogus claims
A health product isfraudulent if it is deceptively promoted as being effective against a disease or health condition, but not scientifically proven safe and effective for that purpose. Remember: There is no proven quick and easy way to lose weight or get healthy.
"Nothing can replace the benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise for safe and effective weight loss," says Dr. Bassett.
2. Look out for fake guarantees
Always read the fine print before purchasing a health or weight loss product. A common tactic in health care scams is the money-back guarantee, giving the appearance of a risk-free investment.
3. Look for trustworthy reviews before purchase
Before trying a new product, search for its name online through a trusted search engine. Fake reviews are common, so seek verified reviews from a variety of sources. If all you find are glowing reviews, consider if the authors may have been paid or received free products for writing the review. Also look for complaints or lawsuits about the product. If you see the product on social media, but the comments are turned off, beware - it’s a red flag that the company is trying to hide honest feedback.
4. Consult a health professional
Always consult with a primary care physician or certified health practitioner before beginning a new medicine or dietary supplement, particularly if the product is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
5. Seek reliable information for getting healthy
There are places to seek more information on your own if you are interested in treating diseases and ailments, backed by certified doctors and scientists.
Below are some websites to help you get started:
- National Institute of Health's MedlinePlus
- The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
- Weight-control Information Network
- Connecticut: Nutrition Physical Activity Obesity Prevention Program
- New Jersey: Nutrition and Fitness
- New York: Obesity Prevention Programs and Activities