Sadly, on the internet, things are not always as they first appear. Many consumers have found this out to their cost after signing up for free trials of raspberry ketone supplements.
Without exception, these free trials have left thousands of people out of pocket, ripped off and no thinner than when they started.
The Rise of the Raspberry
Raspberry Ketones first hit public attention in the USA after renowned TV doctor, Dr Oz described this fruit ingredient as a “fat burning miracle” on his show.
Raspberry Ketones are the aroma compound of raspberries and according to Dr Oz this compound helps regulate adiponectin – a protein which controls the metabolism and breaks down fat cells.
There is actually little evidence that it works but with Doctor Oz using phrases like “fat burner in a bottle” on prime time TV, the sales of Raspberry Ketones supplements went through the roof following his show.
The Doctor Oz Effect
Almost overnight Raspberry Ketones became the target of scammers as everyone jumped on the new weight loss bandwagon. Many scam companies used clips of Dr Oz’s TV show as a way of improving sales. It made it look as if Dr Oz was endorsing their particular product and not just the ingredient. When he said “miracle weight loss in a bottle”, it looked like he was talking about their product.
It all looked very convincing and led to Dr Oz attempting to clear his name. He took exception at being the face of all these dodgy companies and has never endorsed any brands or made any money from these scam artists. However, the FTC (federal trade commission) did not agree that he was a victim but actually the cause of the problem.
He was called into a hearing and publicly ticked off by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who chairs a Senate subcommittee on consumer protection,
When you feature a product on your show it creates what has become known as the “Dr. Oz Effect” — dramatically boosting sales and driving scam artists to pop up overnight using false and deceptive ads to sell questionable products,
Dr Oz has made enthusiastic claims for other weight loss ingredients including green coffee beans and Garcinia Cambogia but Raspberry Ketones appear to have become the major target for scammers.
You can read more about Dr Oz at the senate here.
The Free Trial Scams Begin
Quickly, scam companies in the USA hit on marketing Raspberry Ketones supplements by offering consumers free trials.
Buyers, attracted to Raspberry Ketones no doubt by the apparent endorsement of the trusted face of Dr Oz, lost no time in signing up for these free trials.
It was a trick. Many people found that once they had signed up by giving their bank details to these crooked companies in order to pay for the postage, they were in fact signed up to a hard to cancel auto billing programme.
Sometimes there was small print that stated the terms and conditions but in many cases this information was unavailable, other times the small print simply overlooked.
US customers found that every month regular payments were being taken from their accounts and new products sent to them through the post.
The Raspberry Ketone Scam Goes Global
As with everything, the world market was fast to follow the USA. The people in the UK may not be quite as impressed with Dr Oz but everyone loves the concept of a freebie!
Although raspberry ketone supplements are not the only type of diet pill to use this free trial rip off strategy, Raspberry Ketones have fast become notorious in recent year.
Here at the Watchdog we have been gathering information from our readers about these various scam products and have been shocked and disgusted by the behaviour of these companies.
There are countless of other raspberry ketone supplement companies offering the same scam. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
A quick look around the various other general consumer websites such as the moneysaving expert forum throw up even more ketone supplement companies operating the same scam. There are a lot of them.
So How Does The Free Trial Scam Work?
Once you are on the product website, you are encouraged to order, “today to activate your free trial” or similar.
You fill in your address details and because you need to pay the shipping costs for delivery, you then fill out your bank details.
At this point, if you read through the small print you may be able to see what you are signing up for.
Not all the supplements include this information but plenty of them do.
Here is a typical example:
By clicking “Submit & Confirm” you agree to be charged $4.95(USD) for S&H and will receive a 1 month supply of Raspberry Ketone Select to use.
If you are satisfied with the effects of Raspberry Ketone Select, do nothing and 14 days from today, you will be charged an enrolment fee of $84.78 (USD).
To avoid being charged the enrolment fee you must cancel your account before 14 days.
At this point, you are given a phone number to call or a website link to a cancellation page. You may think that a cancellation page and a process for stopping the agreement looks fairly legit, but it isn’t.
If you fail to contact the company and cannot manage to cancel this agreement, you will be sent fresh supplies of the supplement every 30 days and the company will take the payment out of your bank account each month.
Very Hard To Cancel
According to customers, cancelling the agreement is not as easy as it sounds. Many Watchdog readers have been left frustrated.
The phone numbers are often overseas, sometimes in the USA, but we have also seen Spain and Ireland.
The various Raspberry Ketone companies are unhelpful and there are usually “technical” problems that ensure that by the time you manage to contact anyone either by email or phone, the next month’s payment will have been extracted from your bank account or down as a pending payment. In some cases, the company does not even send the products.
Returning unwanted products does not always work either. Sometimes you will be asked to return the supplement and will be given a RMA (return merchandise authority) number. In all cases, you will still be billed.
Some customers have found that persistency pays off and constantly bombarding the company with emails can result in the agreement being cancelled, but not always.
Some customers have been offered refund deals by the companies. The customer still has to pay but for many people it is worth paying something just to escape from the agreement.
Can You Cancel the Agreement via your Bank?
You should report the problem to your bank as soon as possible. The continuous payment authorities that these supplement companies use are extremely hard for customers to stop but your bank must stop payments if you ask them.
Cancelling your bankcard is not necessarily enough because if you have paid by debit card, the agreement will simply transfer to the new card via your bank account.
We contacted Barclays for some more specialised advice and they were very helpful. Unsurprisingly, they knew about diet pill scams already.
They said that they could stop continuous payments and dispute historic payments if the customer did not receive the goods. They also advised that if you returned the unwanted merchandise and provided proof of posting the bank would dispute the payment on your behalf. Obviously if you do not have a return address this might not be as easy.
If you have already been scammed, then it is crucial to ensure that your bank stops all future payments. You may not get all your money back but at least it will stop any further damage.
Keep Safe, Avoid Free Trials
Sadly, there are numerous scam diet pill companies operating this rip off and if you fall for it yourself it is natural to feel that you are to blame. However, you should not feel too bad. These Raspberry Ketone scams are very convincing and we all make the odd mistake now and then. Thousands have fallen for it so you are not alone.
It is important to remember that once Raspberry Ketone stops being the “flavour of the month” another miracle diet pill will undoubtedly come along and spawn a new batch of free trial diet pill scams.
Free trials are designed to trick you, nothing else. Do not be tempted to sign up, however appealing and trustworthy anything looks. The credible diet pill companies will not offer a free trial so any company that claims to do this is extremely suspect.
It is crucial to read through the terms and conditions before you sign up to anything online. The internet has been described as the Wild West and there is very little legislation to protect you if things go wrong.
In many cases, the Raspberry Ketone scammers do provide the information about their auto billing in the knowledge that most people will not read it.
Do not fall into the trap!
Have you been caught by a “free trial” diet pill scam?
Take a look at our guide to getting your money back from free trials.