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Article Archive >> Business

Tips for Consumers/Weight-Loss Ads Heavy on Deception

from Nicholas Greaves
President, The Better Business Bureau


Losing weight is a struggle for many consumers in the Hagerstown area. In desperation, they fall for many bogus advertised products which make preposterous promises in their advertising to get customers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reviewed hundreds of weight-loss ads and found that most promise far more than they can ever deliver. They boast “miraculous” results while ignoring and often contradicting the basic rule of successful weight loss and weight maintenance - calorie reduction and exercise. They lack scientific evidence to support their claims, use misleading consumer testimonials or expert endorsements. They use a variety of deceptive techniques to bolster the credibility of their products. Some of the scam promises include:

* Quick Fixes. “You can lose 18 pounds in one week!” “Lose up to 8 to 10 pounds per week!” “Eat all you want - the more you eat, the more you’ll lose!” Nonsense, of course.

* Permanent Loss. “Discover the secret to permanent weight loss.” “Get weight off and keep it off.”

* Scientifically proven or doctor-endorsed. “Clinically tested,” or “scientifically proven.” Many phony sellers claimed their products were tested at “respected,” “major,” or “leading” medical centers or universities. However, most of the ads don’t provide details such as where the studies were conducted or published.

* Money-back guarantee. “You will lost up to 35 pounds in three weeks. Yes. Guaranteed! You lose or it doesn’t cost you a penny!” The FTC frequently ends up suing companies that “guarantee” to give consumers money back but don’t.

* Safety. “Proven 100% safe,” “safe, immediate weight loss,” and the old, meaningless standby, “natural.” Arsenic is natural, too.

* Before-and-After Testimonials. “Seven weeks ago, I weight 268 pounds; now I’m down to just 148 pounds... I didn’t change my eating habits...” Before and after photos appear in many such ads. They are doctored and often show impossible results.

Don’t be fooled by ads for easy weight loss. The “secret” - reducing calories and increasing exercise - has always been known to all of us.

Remember to check BBB reports on companies before you buy from them. Visit our web site, www.baltimore.bbb.org. If you have a complaint, use our form on the web or write us at: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore, MD 21230. Our office serves Hagerstown and all of Washington County.

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