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One cure for miracle claims: Jail

Joanne Ikeda, co-founder, Center for Weight and Health | March 3, 2010

In the late 1990’s a full page ad for “SlimAmerica” appeared in the Oakland Tribune.  The ad claimed that major Universities had been involved in the development of a new, incredibly effective weight loss drug that caused “the fat to melt off your body like an ice cube melts on a sweltering hot August day.”   I sent a letter of complaint stating that the claims in the ad could not be substantiated to the newspaper as well as to the Federal Trade Commission, never expecting to hear from either.  Months later I was contacted by an FTC attorney telling me they were going to prosecute the company for consumer fraud.  He asked me to serve as an unpaid consultant to them on this case, and I readily agreed.

I have seen the public duped over and over again by con men selling fraudulent weight loss products.  The most egregious claim was for weight loss pants – you put them on, then hook them up to your vacuum cleaner and the fat is sucked out of your body!  There are weight loss inserts for shoes, weight loss earring and bracelets, even weight loss shorts!  And of course there are numerous pills, powders, and potions that supposedly cause weight loss unaccompanied by any changes in eating or activity patterns.

I have often asked myself, why is the public so gullible?  Have they forgotten everything they were taught in school about how the human body works?    The con man who ran the SlimAmerica scam made well over $17 million charging $49.99 for a month’s supply.  The judge took 2 years to make a decision in that case, and although he ruled in favor of the FTC, he slapped the hands of the defendant and told him not to do it again.  But yesterday, I found out he turned around and immediately ran another scam that made him $7 million.  This time the judge wasn’t so lenient – he got a 20 year jail sentence!

Comments to “One cure for miracle claims: Jail

  1. When I see claims for “natural cures,” I go to the National Library of Medicine search engine http://www.pubmed.gov, or go sieve sites like http://www.greenmedinfo which contain only peer-reviewed biomedical literature. I’ve been able to use this evidence-based approach to separate out the quackery from the actually therapeutic approaches. Hope that helps!

  2. People want something easy and effortless, and when such an offer comes, our logic goes out the window. Especially, if the risk is low, people will tend to pay a small amount just for small chance that it will work. Too often it all ends it disaster.

  3. It makes me cringe every time I hear about stuff like this. I mean, are people that stupid nowadays that they really cannot tell if they are being scammed or not? Fat melted off your body? Weight loss pants hooked up to your vacuum cleaner?? Holy hell, what is happening to the human race…

  4. As most of us overeat due to emotional reasons (past or present) no amount of dieting will help us until we sort out our reasons for becoming fat in the first place. But I do like the idea of the ‘weight loss pants’! Where can I buy them?

    Mel

  5. That is good to hear that you helped prevent the fraud in the weight loss area. It is amazing what people will come up with just to make a buck. There is no magic pill, well at least without side effects. Weight gain and Weight Loss are both very similar.

    To gain weight you eat a lot of healthy calories and workout. To lose weight you cut calories back, eat healthy and workout. The main thing that changes is just the calories. I think people know this, at least to some degree. But I must agree, it is hard to get everything done just within a 24 hour period. lol…

  6. This article provided such hilarious facts. I didn’t know there were weight loss pants! I think most people are easily scammed because they are much willing to try out anything just to lose weight.

  7. I thought I would add to my previous post above with some further information that proves my concern about the importance of safety with regards to these weight loss products, even more than the potential fraud they perpetrate. In one FDA news release (see http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm149575.htm, they mention 23 reports of serious health problems ranging from jaundice and elevated liver enzymes, an indicator of potential liver injury, to liver damage requiring liver transplant and even one death after taking the supplement Hydroxycut. Product safety should be the first concern over all else.

  8. First of all, I hope that every consumer knows that it would actually be extremely dangerous if a product could truly make fat “melt off your body.” Aside from the fact that there would be no way to control how much melted (we do need some to live), who knows what else would actually melt along with it! With that said, it amazes me just how often this kind of thing goes on. I remember an email I once answered where the person was requesting help in finding a mattress that would make them more comfortable for longer periods of time, since they were taking a supplement that reported weight loss benefits while you sleep. Even if a supplement could help keep you in a less relaxing stage of sleep, such as R.E.M. (rapid eye movement), the inevitable result would be for your body to burn less fat while you are awake from the consequential fatigue produced. This is definitely a buyer beware situation, but I think that a disclaimer like we see with cigarette labels should come with every advertisement.

  9. People want something easy and effortless, and when such an offer comes, our logic is not working. Especially, if the risk is low, people will tend to pay a small amount just for small chance that it will work. Well, it never does!

  10. instant weight loss and get rich quick scams will never go away as long as we have overweight people who are not happy with their current income levels – NEVER. As soon as one is taken down another rises to take it’s place.

  11. People fall for this kind of argument because we all have a part in our brains that wants something easy and takes no effort, and unfortunately there is also a portion of our brains that if not overruled by logic, that actually hopes and believes it could just possibly work. People, it doesn’t! Glad this guy got 20!

  12. Weight loss shoe inserts??? I wonder how those were supposed to work… I hope your story was published in a way that the general public could have read about it so that others might also raect simlarly in the real hopes of getting results. As a former anorexic, thank you.

  13. @the defendent:
    YOU ALREADY MADE $17M. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH _ANOTHER_ NEAR-LIFETIME SUPPLY OF MONEY?

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