CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (BBB) — Losing weight is a popular New Year’s resolution, but Better Business Bureau (BBB) urges consumers to use caution when buying diet and weight loss products to aid them on their journey, especially products that advertise a free trial.

“Miracle” products that promise easy weight loss are ubiquitous on the internet, and you may be enticed to try these products through a “risk-free” trial: Just enter your name, address and credit card number, and the product will be on its way for only a nominal shipping and handling charge. However, according to a 2018 in-depth investigative study by BBB’s International Investigations Initiative, the fine print associated with many of these free trial offers ensnares consumers in so-called “subscription traps” that hook them for expensive shipments of products they did not explicitly agree to buy.

BBB Scam Tracker fielded reports of about 260 scams in 2019, and more than 1,100 in the last three years, that were associated with free trial offers.

BBB also received more than 950 complaints in 2019 about weight loss and diet services and products. Common complaints included never receiving products ordered, results that were not as advertised or products that caused an adverse reaction.

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

· Ask your doctor what an achievable weight loss goal for you would be. Beware of claims that you will lose dozens of pounds within a short time period like a few weeks; most people’s bodies can’t accommodate that kind of weight loss.

· Determine your fitness goals. It’s hard work to lose weight. Find a program you can stick with, preferably one that you enjoy. Does a weight loss plan require you to buy special foods? Can you cancel if you move or find that the program doesn’t meet your needs?

· Avoid products that claim to help you lose weight without diet or exercise and be skeptical of claims that you don’t have to give up favorite foods or reduce the amount you consume. Doctors, dieticians, and other experts agree that losing weight takes work. Pass up any product that promises miraculous results without any effort. 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’s better to limit portion size or how frequently you indulge.

· Be suspicious of taking special pills, powders or herbs. Sometimes these are gimmicks and offer little or no accurate scientific research to back up the claims.

· Be wary of a lack of ingredient list. Some companies have been accused of not advertising certain ingredients that can come with harmful side effects or mix adversely with prescription drugs you may be taking.

· There is never a guarantee when it comes to weight loss. Be cautious when a company says it can guarantee weight loss. There is no magic pill to make you shed pounds. Shady diet supplement companies know that few people will take the time and effort to get their money back so making a money-back guarantee is not a money-losing concept. Many companies will not even honor their supposed guarantees.

· Be suspicious of extremely positive testimonials on the company website. Testimonials can become an easy marketing tool and are easily faked. These are often accompanied by dramatic before and after pictures.