CONSUMER FORUM

Weight-loss scams prey on the unsuspecting

Posted Jan. 12, 2014, at 12:46 p.m.

If your New Year’s resolution to lose weight hasn’t gained traction, check out this website. I know, you’ve heard that pitch before, but this one is different … really.

The website (wemarket4u.net/fatfoe/) touts the wonders of FatFoe, an eggplant extract in capsule form that “binds with food to block the absorption of fat, carbs AND calories. Lose up to 10 pounds per week,” the ad continues, and it’s “GUARANTEED to work for everyone.”

In the too-good-to-be-true department, this one tops the list. However, when you try to click and buy FatFoe, you’re redirected to another website that admits FatFoe isn’t real. The fake site was put together by the Federal Trade Commission and Competition Bureau of Canada to educate consumers about weight-loss hoaxes.

Among the red-flag claims in hoax ads:

— You can lose weight without diet or exercise.

— You can eat all the high-calorie foods you like and still lose weight.

— A product can make you lose three pounds a week for more than four weeks.

— A product will make you lose weight permanently, and it works for everyone.

The educational website concludes that the only thing you’re guaranteed to lose is your money.

That website was launched in 2004 as part of “Operation Big Fat Lie,” a multi-pronged effort by the FTC to crack down on losses to consumers that likely run into the billions of dollars. At that time, Maine joined the FTC in suing a firm based in Scarborough for making false claims about a topical gel and dietary supplement. The company agreed to pay $100,000 to consumers to settle the charges.

Just last week, the FTC settled with marketers of Sensa and three other fad products. Ads for Sensa said, “sprinkle, eat and lose weight.” Under the settlement, sellers of Sensa agreed to pay $26.5 million to consumers who bought it and to stop making unfounded claims.

The latest crackdown is termed “Operation Failed Resolution.” The FTC also announced it’s charging L’Occitane, which claimed a skin cream could somehow cause users to lose weight. The agency also is charging HCG Diet Direct for marketing an unproven human hormone for weight loss. The FTC also announced a partial settlement of a case against LeanSpa, LLC, which allegedly set up fake news websites to promote acai berry and “colon-cleanse” supplements as weight-loss aids.

If you think you may be entitled to some compensation, check this FTC-run website: http://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/refunds. It lists a number of companies the FTC has pursued with contact information. The FTC is still working out the ways consumers might be compensated, so you may not get an answer right away.

To see the FatFoe website and similar sites warning of phony health claims, work-at-home schemes and more, visit wemarket4u.net.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

 

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