If you were walking down the street, and a man on the sidewalk offered you a bunch of pills as part of a free weight-loss trial in exchange for your credit card number, would you do it?
I mean, many of us think about losing weight and get seduced by the promise of an easy diet -- but beware, that açai berry diet e-mail offer in your inbox is the equivalent of a shady character on the street, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the Better Business Bureau.
The açai offers are diverse: The berry will help you lose weight, cleanse your colon, enhance sexual desire and leap tall buildings in a single bound. In fact, all the berry is proven to offer is a "middling levels of antioxidants less than that of Concord grape, blueberry, and black cherry juices, but more than cranberry, orange, and apple juices," according to the CSPI.
The sad fact: Once you sign up for the free trial, and find the results lacking, you can't always cancel the automatic credit card payments, according to the watchdogs.
"Law enforcement has yet to catch up to these rogue operators," said CSPI senior nutritionist David Schardt. "Until they do, consumers have to protect themselves."
Here are some tips for minimizing your risk to scams:
Use common sense.
If a product you've never heard of offers unbelievable results, it's probably a scam. Don't buy it.
Protect your credit.
If you do plan to buy it, the Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends using "a prepaid credit card with a low credit limit or a virtual credit card that shields your real credit card number from unscrupulous online vendors."
Check out the business first.
Look for the Better Business Bureau's BBB seal before buying, click it to make sure it's legitimate, and search the Better Business Bureau's site before making a purchase.
Beware bogus celebrity endorsements.
Because the açai berry has been featured by Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Rachel Ray and others, many sites trumpet supposed endorsements. Each of those celebrities has publicly disassociated his or herself from the açai berry sites claiming an association. This is a common scam method, so be wary of supposed ties to celebrities or other third-party endorsements.
Beware fake blogs.
Scams like the açai berry diet scams use the power of the Internet to deceive. They set up fake front blogs and sites so that the product appears to exist within a universe of endorsements and personal testimonials. Click with a high degree of skepticism.
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