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Weight loss scams are on the rise, says New York’s Better Business Bureau

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Weight loss scams are on the rise, according to New York’s Better Business Bureau, which says complaints about products involving health, beauty, medical care and fitness have increased more than 55% over the last year.

While inundated with gripes about weight loss drugs, BBB Metro New York received a flood of complaints about other consumer health and beauty products, including items ranging from exercise equipment to deodorant, especially those advertised heavily on social media.

“Weight loss drugs are in high demand, and many companies are just not prepared to handle the volume,” said Claire Rosenzweig, president and CEO of BBB Metro New York.

“Consumers put down their payment in good faith and too often don’t get what they pay for,” she added. “Some fall victim to miracle weight loss claims that are just not true. They can lose money and might endanger their health due to the potentially harmful ingredients in fake weight-loss drugs or other phony products.”

As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Rosenzweig urged consumers to be on the lookout for a wide range of scams from government agency imposters to sweepstake lottery prizes.

At an online news conference, she joined government agency leaders and consumer protection advocates in repeating an old adage: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Among the more popular tools in consumer fraud is artificial intelligence, said Wilson Guzman, associate state director of engagement for the AARP.

Scammers are scanning popular video sites to mimic the voices of actors and using them in bogus messages to the public, he explained.

“Scammers want to earn your trust, so using a beloved celebrity is one way they do it,” Guzman said.

Beware, too, of tax season scams featuring callers pretending to be government agents or tax preparation services promising upfront money. Last year, according to the Internal Revenue Service, there was more than $5.5 billion in tax fraud.

“We see a variety of scams every year,” said Paulina Rodriguez, a special agent in the IRS criminal investigation unit. “Even when someone files on your behalf, you are responsible for your tax bill. So choose a tax preparer wisely.”

Other Better Business Bureau complaint categories include financial services and insurance, online retailers and general retail stores.

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