The weight-loss industry – dietary supplements, health club payments, diet drinks and so on – is a huge one that pulls in more than $60 billion a year. These rich pickings to be had also pull in an incredible amount of fraudulent entrepreneurship.
Of all the complaints that the Federal Trade Commission receives each year, the weight-loss category accounts for nearly 15% – a figure that no other category comes close to. The FTC, then, vigorously pursues fraudulent weight-loss businesses. In 1997, for instance, the FTC’s Operation Waistline took down seven dishonest marketers of weight-loss products.
These companies promoted curious concepts such as weight-loss shoe insoles and skin patches. The FTC also shot down a number of websites that wrote fake positive reviews about these products.
Operation Big Fat Lie in 2004 went after six weight-loss companies. One of their targets was the Himalayan Diet Breakthrough, sellers of a pill that was supposedly made out of a special substance found in the Himalayas that could help users eat all they wanted, but still lose half a pound each day.
Here’s what you need to know about the FTC’s most wanted weight-loss scams today
The FTC rounded up four weight-loss manufacturers in January 2014. While the companies targeted – LeanSpa, HCG Diet Direct, L’Occitane, and Sensa Products – have admitted no wrongdoing, they have agreed to pay tens of millions in the form of refunds to consumers. As far as the government is concerned today, every weight-loss product that is sold without proof of having passed placebo tests and the double-blind test is unscientific and potentially fraudulent.
The acai berry weight-loss plan has been around for years. Many would think that the novelty factor would have worn out enough for acai berry plans that they wouldn’t sell anymore. Unfortunately, businesses like Australia’s LeanSpa manage to still successfully promote acai berry products.
The company’s advertising promises massive weight-loss and toxin cleansing. They even place fake news reviews and quotes on their website to prove their claims. The company was rounded up by the FTC and forced to make refunds to consumers and also pay penalties worth millions.
HCG Diet Direct
The hCG diet was one of the biggest scam weight-loss ideas of 2013.
The idea was that the human chorionic gonadotropin hormone, extracted from human placentas, could raise your rate of metabolism so greatly that it could make you burn up a pound each day.
You also had to go on a starvation-level 500-calorie-a-day diet at the same time. Hcg Diet direct, a popular seller of hCG diet products, has been asked to pay a huge penalty that effectively puts them out of business.
Sensa had a product that many found appealing – a powder that you only needed to sprinkle on your food each day to lose 30 pounds in a few weeks. While the company made close to half a billion on their products, they declared their inability to pay the FTC’s $46 million penalties. The company still sells its products today, though it uses different, less misleading advertising.
L’Occitane en Provence isn’t some small, fly-by-night operator like the three brands above. It is a huge, multinational cosmetics brand with thousands of boutiques across the world. The FTC caught up with them for advertising a skin cream that you could simply apply on your tights to make your cellulite disappear. Today, L’Occitane has been forced to refund nearly half a million to customers.
Here’s what you can do to make sure you don’t fall for these scams and wait around for a refund
Losing weight can be one of the hardest things that overweight people ever commit to doing. They may try as hard as they want to and use their willpower to commit themselves to lose weight.
For most people, willpower is simply inadequate as a long-term solution. These people usually only turn to scammy weight-loss products when they are at the end of their tether.
No matter how desperate you are, though, the rules of science do not change – it’s important to realize that simple over-the-counter products will probably never be able to help people lose weight. A simple cream or other product won’t take all the calories and fat deposits in your body and make them disappear. Such a product possibly never exist.
The only way to lose weight is the natural one – putting in fewer calories than you expend through activity. You can speed up your weight-loss by working out.
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Jenni Jacobsen graduated from The Ohio State University in June 2011 with her bachelor’s degree in psychology and in May 2015 with her master’s degree in social work. Throughout her college career, she took English courses, worked as a freelance writer, and assisted other students in writing papers.
Jenni Jacobsen recently began pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology through Northcentral University and is becoming a subject-matter expert in the area of addiction. More about me Full Bio.