Weight loss scams exposed: How to spot them and protect yourself

May 11th · 9 min read

Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|
Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|

Lose weight not your cash: Understanding weight loss scams

We’ve all been there, looking regretfully at an empty pizza box or the leftovers of a decadent dessert we just devoured, feeling a pinch of guilt for indulging. Then just as you’re beating yourself up, an ad flashes on your browser or social feed, “Lose weight fast,” it declares, offering a miracle pill or magical gummy bear that can supposedly restore your dream body in just a week. And the best part? It’s free to try! Tempted by the promise and looking at the empty pizza box, you think, “Why not?”

As tempting as a magic weight loss solution might be, these ads can be totally misleading, selling you pills and powders that don’t deliver on their grand promises. Sometimes, you might end up with a product that's merely ineffective, which is really frustrating. But more often than not, these weight loss ads are outright scams— they don't just fail to deliver, but they're also designed to steal your credit card details or personal information.

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of weight loss scams, mainly those shady versions that don’t just sell you ineffective products but jeopardize your financial security and personal information. We’ll uncover the tactics used by scammers and show you how to protect yourself using a little common sense and cybersecurity tools like Guardio. Let’s dive in!

Some weight loss promises are too good to be true

Use Guardio to navigate safely and avoid falling victim to costly weight loss scams.

Donut or salad?

What are weight loss scams?

Advertising has always walked a fine line between fact from fiction, and as it’s transitioned online, that line has become even blurrier. cammers are all too happy to use this confusion to their advantage, especially when selling weight loss products. They'll try anything, from pushing keto gummies with fake celebrity endorsements to promoting pills with made-up news stories, all to trick you and take your money.

The thing is, weight loss scams cleverly play on our weaknesses and the common wish for quick, easy fixes to lose weight. Many of us want to see big changes without the hard work of dieting or exercising, and this makes us easy targets for scams. Scammers promise fast results with little effort by tapping into our feelings and insecurities about our bodies.

How do diet and weight loss scams work?

How do diet and weight loss scams catch your eye and empty your wallet? These slick ads make big promises, claiming you'll drop pounds effortlessly without changing your diet or exercise habits. The reality? Most of the time, these products are duds that don't deliver any of the promised results. At best, they do nothing; at worst, they could put your financial info and identity at risk.

Scammers have honed their craft over the years. To make their diet scams appear more credible, they illegally use logos from well-known news sources. The glowing reviews? They're usually concocted by the scammers themselves or bought from others willing to lie for a price. And those dramatic before and after photos that catch your attention? More often than not, they're just stock images or heavily edited photos—not real success stories from actual users. Moreover, with advancements in technology, scammers now use AI to create highly convincing fake endorsement ads and videos featuring celebrities. These realistic forgeries are designed to further mislead you by exploiting the trust you place in familiar faces.

Here's where the scam goes deeper: Scammers don't just rely on ads to hook you—they create entire fake websites that look incredibly legitimate. These sites offer miraculous pills, gummies, or other products, promising an easy fix to your weight concerns. It might seem like you're just a few clicks away from your dream body, but once you enter your credit card details to make a purchase, the trap snaps shut. Bam—just like that, your information is stolen, your credit card is overcharged, and you're left with more than just unshed pounds; you're also stuck with a thinner wallet.

Weight loss and diet scams exposed

The "Shark Tank" and "Dragons' Den" diet pill scam

Here’s a closer look at a particularly sneaky scam that might pop up in your social media feed or land in your inbox as a phishing email. It advertises Figur or Liba diet pills, boasting a massive investment from the "Shark Tank" panel—over a million dollars, supposedly. But it’s all fiction. This type of scam isn't confined to the U.S.; its British counterpart, "Dragons' Den," faces similar issues.

The scam cleverly exploits the respect and recognition associated with celebrities from "Shark Tank" and "Dragons' Den" to make the pills seem like a legitimate, miraculous weight loss solution. You might see convincing photos of Lori Greiner or her British counterpart Deborah Meaden endorsing these diet pills. The ads and emails are finely tuned to make you believe these weight loss aids are not only effective but also backed by celebrity power.

Next, comes a flood of incredible weight loss stories, claiming you can shed an average of one and a half stone in just a month. These ads often push you to act fast with a "special offer" link that creates a sense of urgency, hoping you'll bite before you have a second to doubt their claims.

However, the celebrities themselves and the networks have completely disavowed any ties to the mentioned diet pills. "Shark Tank" star Kevin O’Leary clarifies, “I don't take weight-loss pills and I don’t use products like that.” He highlights that his significant weight loss was due to lifestyle changes, not supplements, criticizing the scammers for using misleading before and after photos of him.

Clicking on that tempting link only leads to a webpage designed to gather your personal details and, eventually, your payment information. By entering your data, you're not just risking money on what's likely a phantom product—you're also opening yourself up to potential identity theft and further scams. Fellow Shark Mark Cuban has expressed his frustration, receiving countless emails from victims inquiring about ineffective keto gummies and unauthorized charges. He finds it “heartbreaking” and “truly sad that nothing has changed,” highlighting the emotional and financial toll these scams take on unsuspecting consumers.

Shark Tank + Dragons den fake ads

Sources 1, 2

Weight loss scams promising quick fixes are everywhere!

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Oprah’s weight loss gummies

With the increasing sophistication of technology, distinguishing genuine endorsements from fake ones online is becoming harder. Altered images and videos can make scams appear legitimate, deceiving even the most cautious buyers.

Laura Guerra, who usually checks everything before she buys online, got fooled by what looked like Oprah Winfrey endorsing keto gummies. “I saw Oprah and thought, 'Well, if she backs it, it must be good.' So I ordered,” Laura explained. She went to a website that claimed these gummies could help you lose a lot of weight fast and seemed to have Oprah’s endorsement.

But what was supposed to be a simple purchase turned into a big headache. The ad said one bottle cost $49, but when Laura checked her bank account, she saw a charge of $258.77 for several bottles she didn’t mean to buy. Trying to fix the problem was a nightmare. She couldn’t get a hold of customer service and then realized she was totally duped.

Oprah Winfrey herself has made it clear that she does not endorse any weight loss gummies or diet pills. Despite many online ads claiming she does, Oprah has taken to Instagram and other platforms to let everyone know she’s not connected with these products. “I have nothing to do with weight loss gummies or diet pills, and I don’t want you all taken advantage of by people misusing my name,” she told her followers after getting lots of questions about her supposed endorsements.

While Oprah does have a legit partnership with WW International (formerly Weight Watchers), she has confirmed that any other claims about her endorsing weight loss products are completely false. This year, there were even misleading ads on social media claiming she endorsed fitness gummies that could make you lose a lot of weight quickly. It just goes to show, you've got to be careful and check the facts.

How to avoid weight loss fraud

While some diet ads are more misleading than outright scams that steal your money, you'll probably want to steer clear of both. Here are some telltale signs that weight loss and diet ads aren't what they appear to be: No diet changes needed: Claims that you can lose weight without monitoring your diet are false.

  • Permanent weight loss guarantees: Any product that promises permanent weight loss without lifestyle changes is not being truthful.

  • Unrealistic and quick fixes: Ignore promises of losing a significant amount of weight quickly, like 30 pounds in 30 days, or claim that a product works for everyone. These are unrealistic and potentially harmful.

  • One-size-fits-all: Any product that claims to work for everyone is oversimplifying the complex nature of weight loss.

  • Celebrity and brand misuse: Be cautious of products endorsed by celebrities or branded with well-known logos without verification. Scammers use these tactics to appear credible.

It's probably best to check and verify the official celebrity's social media accounts or website. If the product is legitimately endorsed, the celebrity will typically share the same promotion through their official channels.

  • Ingredient transparency: Avoid products that don't clearly list their ingredients. Some may contain harmful substances or could interact negatively with medications. Check the FDA’s public notifications for unsafe weight loss products.

  • Subscription traps: Watch out for free trial offers that lead to ongoing subscriptions without clear consent. These can result in unapproved charges for products you didn't intend to buy.

  • Online caution: When participating in forums or online discussions about weight loss, be wary of users pushing quick-fix products. Always set realistic goals and choose weight loss programs that you can sustain and enjoy.

  • Consultation and verification: Consult your doctor for reliable weight loss advice, and always check company reputations on BBB.org to review user feedback and scam reports.

  • Use security software: With the amount of online threats out there, falling victim to a scam is often not a matter of if but when. Guardio provides an essential layer of protection, safeguarding you as you navigate the web. Whether you're researching weight loss options or browsing new sites, if you wander into risky territory, Guardio is there to watch your back, ensuring you stay safe from deceptive practices and scams.

Why use cybersecurity tools?

In the face of rampant online scams, robust protection is essential. Guardio provides indispensable security features that shield you from various cyber threats:

Blocks dangerous websites: Prevents access to harmful websites that could compromise your security.

Phishing alerts: Notifies you of phishing attempts to help you avoid fraudulent emails and texts.

Ad and link protection: Guards against deceptive ads and links that could lead to unsafe sites.

24/7 coverage: Offers continuous protection to keep you safe online at all times.

Data breach detection: Guardio alerts you in real-time if your data is ever leaked or breached, enabling quick actions to change passwords and protect your personal information.

The bottom line

When it comes to weight loss solutions, it's easy to get pulled into offers that sound too good to be true. However, knowing what to look out for can keep you from falling for scams. Always double-check the facts, be skeptical of celebrity endorsements, and be wary of free trials that might sign you up for more than you bargained for. Losing weight takes effort and should be based on sound, realistic approaches rather than dubious quick fixes. Remember, the internet is full of traps for the unwary, but with Guardio watching your back, you're well-protected. Always better to be safe and informed than sorry, so keep your eyes open and your skepticism handy. Stay sharp, stay secure, and let’s keep it scam-free out there!

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