Acai Berry Scams
Acai Berry Scams
Source: Nutrition Action, April 2009
Published by The Center for Science in the Public Interest
They are all over the internet. Websites, blogs and advertisements claiming amazing weight loss in a only months including extraordinary amounts of body fat by taking acai berry supplements using colon cleansers. Most state their products are endorsed by popular celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Rachele Ray. Or are they? The ads and blogs refer to free trial samples that turn out to be anything but free. A credit card is charged for shipping and handling and in many cases charges recur monthly whether or not you wish to continue receiving the products.
Anyone in a matter of hours can create and post a blog; individuals, companies and scam artists. No background check is required. All that’s needed is a valid credit card.
If you surf acai blogs and other weight loss blogs long enough you’ll find photographs of the same attractive young women or man usually with different names. Nutrition Action found blogs by Tara, Olivia, Alicia and Becky. The photos were of a German model named Julia and available for $1.50 (USD) from istockphoto.com. Some blogs have the exact wording. The acai blog scam was uncovered by wafflesatnoon.com a real blog written by a veteran advertising industry professional who exposes internet scams.
Free samples acai supplement samples require a credit or debit card number to cover shipping and handling. What people think is a one time charge is enrollment in an “automatic shipping program” that sends overpriced products costing $80 (USD) or more per month.
Details are in the websites fine print which many people fail to read before ordering. Once you are enrolled, good luck cancelling. Some companies keep shipping and billing even after you request they stop shipping their products.
One way of protecting yourself from repeated charges is by using a virtual credit card number which you create for a dollar limit you specify. When you make online purchases using your virtual card number the charge appears on your credit card bill. Companies you buy from using the virtual card number never know your real credit card number. If a company tries to bill your virtual card for more than you’ve authorized, the charge is rejected. Check your credit card issuer’s website for this free service. Citibank calls it Virtual Account Numbers, Bank of America Shopsafe and Discover card Secure Online Account Numbers.
Celebrity and Medical Professional Endorsements
Many acai berry and other scam websites claim their products are endorsed by television celebrities like Dr. Oz, Oprah Winfrey or Rachele Ray. Some even claimed Winfrey and Ray lost 30 or more pounds using their products. Phony consumer endorsements achieving similar results encourage others to try acai products for “free.” A spokesman for Winfrey’s production company states Ms. Winfrey is not associated with and does not endorse acai products.
Endorsements by medical professionals including doctors may also be bogus. Nutrition Action and Consumer Reports have revealed ads for questionable products using the same photo of “actual users.” Stock photos of medical professional and models posing as medical professional are available for a few dollars from royalty free stock photo companies with no questions asked about the intended use.
Remember, if it sounds to good to be true it probably is. Celebrities and professional athletes do not endorse products for free. Some receive millions of dollars for product endorsements. Legally, celebrity endorsers must use the products endorsed but that doesn’t mean the products produce the expected results. Endorsers may not reveal their rapid weight loss was due to diet changes and exercise in addition to the product being sold. Some endorsers are provided dietitians and personal trainers at no cost during their weight loss period. Some ads may have very fine print revealing more was involved to achieve dramatic results beyond what’s contained in the ad or blog.
Phony Product Reviews
Web sites are popping up that review and recommend products like acai berry. They appear to be legitimate, but unlike reviews in Consumer Reports or articles in professional publications, the information is provided by the product manufacturer and the websites try to sell you their top rated products. Conflicts of interest like this are usually revealed in the fine print.
Acai berries are a South American fruit that looks like a grape. In 2005, acai juice was selling for $40 (USD) a quart based on claims it was a powerful antioxidant. Since then the antioxidant craze has cooled off. Now, acai has evolved into a miracle weight loss product available for a free trail that is costing some consumers hundreds of dollars.
Acai berries may provide antioxidants, but there is no peer reviewed documented evidence that it does anything except separate people from their money. There are no clinical studies that acai in juice or pill form causes weight loss let alone significant weight loss.