Avoiding weight loss scams with tips from the Better Business Bureau

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)- The Federal Trade Commission took action in 2015 against more than a dozen firms selling bogus weight loss products, ranging from cactus juice to a phony weight loss belt. Consumers lost millions of dollars to these scams.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) receives thousands of complaints every year about weight control services, health and diet products, as well as gyms and health clubs.

Misunderstandings about contract terms are common with fitness and weight loss programs. Consumers need to ask questions and read contracts carefully to be sure they know how to cancel. Consumers also need to know what kind of notice is required and whether the gym will refund the unused portions of a contract. Some contracts automatically renew unless the consumer cancels.

Before starting a weight-loss program, the BBB advises consumers to consult a doctor for an assessment of overall health risks. Doctors may recommend options for losing weight or exercise programs that fit your health status and ability to stick with a program.

Before you invest in diet or fitness plans or products, the BBB offers several tips:

  • Avoid products claiming to help you lose weight without diet or exercise. Pass up any product promising miraculous results without any effort.
  • Be skeptical of claims that you don't have to give up favorite foods or reduce the amount you consume. Try filling up on healthy vegetables and fruits so you can resist high-calorie treats. However, eliminating all your favorites could set you up to fail. It is better to limit portion size or how frequently you indulge.
  • Determine your fitness goals. It's hard work to lose weight. Find a program you can stick with, and preferably one you enjoy. Does a weight loss plan require you to buy special foods? Can you cancel if you move or find the program doesn't meet your needs?
  • Find a health club or exercise facility that is convenient and that offers times that fit your schedule.
  • Check with the BBB before signing a contract. Anyone can check a company's BBB Business Review at www.BBB.org or by calling (314) 645-3300. Reviews include the firm's complaint history and whether complaints were resolved.
  • Consider your budget. Ask the health club about 'joining' or enrollment fees and ongoing monthly costs.
  • Read the entire contract. Will anything cost you extra? What is the total cost, including enrollment fees and finance charges?
  • Understand your rights to cancel your contract. Missouri laws give consumers the right to cancel a health club contract within three days of signing it. The laws says three business days, but if the facility is open on the weekends, those days may count as business days.