Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Feds: News Sites Peddling Weight Loss Products A Scam

Diet pills that promise rapid weight loss with little exercise might seem like a dream come true. But in many cases, the only thing that gets thinner is your wallet.

One federal agency is now cracking down on at least one apparent diet scam. The Federal Trade Commission just announced a crackdown on Web sites that use the logos of real news organizations and fake testimonials to push a dietary supplement. The FTC says that Web sites peddling the acai berry diet violated federal law by posing as news sites, utilizing testimonial by alleged reporters that the diet worked. According to the FTC, this gave consumers the false impression that the diet had been researched by reputable sources, or that consumers were reading real news reports.

According to court filings, the scam worked like this:

A consumer types "acai" into Google or another search engine. An ad pops up that says, "Health Reporter Discovers The Shocking Truth." Clicking on that link leads the consumer to a fake news site featuring a first-person story about a fake reporter's positive experience with the diet products. One more click and the consumer lands on an ad offering a "free trial" of an acai berry supplement.

The FTC received multiple complaints from consumers who paid from $70 to $100 for weight-loss products after having been duped by the fake news sites. Over the past week, the FTC has filed complaints in Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Georgia and Washington.

The acai berry scam is not the only diet scam out there. As the nation's obesity rate continues to rise and access to the Internet becomes more and more widespread, weight loss has become an area ripe for scammers. The Internet allows people to cloak their products with legitimate looking items: logos, formats mimicking legitimate news organizations, using familiar faces to promote the products.

Experts say certain terms give away the true nature of an ad’s claim. “Lose weight without diet or exercise!” “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!” “Eat your favorite foods and still lose weight!” All are familiar slogans—and experts say all instant red lights that the product being peddled is a scam.

So keeping this information in mind, if weight loss products are going through these types of measures to trick people into buying their products, do you still believe that those products will actually help you accomplish you goal of losing weight?   

If you believe you’ve been scammed, report it to the FTC.

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