Tips to avoid fraudulent exercise programs/products | Refugio County Press

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The beginning of a new year is often associated with increased interest in gym memberships, at-home workout equipment and programs designed around living a healthier lifestyle. 

As consumers recover from holiday celebrations, including holiday dinners typically more robust than the standard fare, the new year offers plenty of opportunities to help shed those extra servings of stuffing. However, it is important to remain mindful of con artists who take advantage of shopper trends for their own gain and to keep realistic fitness goals that can be carried throughout the year.

Online searches for ‘workout equipment’ typically peak in late December or early January as consumers begin to outfit their homes to pursue their fitness goals. Unfortunately, the increase in interest in these products is also something scammers take advantage of, shifting their tactics from fraudulent holiday gifts to exercise equipment. 

Better Business Bureau also receives reports of ‘miracle products,’ often provided in a pill or powder, that guarantees the user will lose a certain amount of weight in a certain timeframe. Advertisements for these products often claim the user will not have to alter their diet or change their exercise routine, appealing to a wide range of consumers, but come with a monthly charge that is difficult to remove or a high initial price. 

Earlier in 2022, a Texas resident found an online website selling branded gym equipment for extremely low prices with free shipping. After making their purchase, the consumer reported their, “order did not show any sales tax calculated. After I placed the order, the email receipt from PayPal showed a very different business name in a foreign language. When I called to cancel the order, the phone number was non-existent and all my emails to their support email went unanswered.”  

Better Business Bureau provides the following tips to get the most out of your new year fitness goals and avoid scams:

• Ask questions about limited free trials. Gyms often give a one-week free pass for potential members, and at-home programs provide a trial period to allow consumers to determine if it is the right fit for their fitness goals. 

If interested in a gym membership, spend the time to realistically determine what time of the day you would be available to dedicate toward exercise and visit the gym during these times to see how crowded it is or if there is a wait for equipment you would typically use in your workout routine. Check to see if limited trials are offered for any classes or specialized programs.

• Don’t feel coerced. Do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics to join a workout program immediately or make a purchase online without first researching the seller or business. A reputable gym or program will give you enough time to read the contract thoroughly, tour the facilities and make an informed decision. 

Be especially wary of claims that seem too good to be true, such as a guarantee of losing a large amount of weight extremely quickly.

• Calculate the true costs. Gyms and at-home workout or dietary programs often use introductory offers to encourage new members, especially in the new year. However, the price could go up more than you budgeted once the initial period is over. Make sure to read the contract and expenses carefully and understand the regular monthly fees and what they include.

• Understand the terms. Read the contract carefully before signing and make sure that all verbal promises made by a salesperson are in writing. Pay close attention to the cancellation and renewal policies. Some programs may charge a cancellation fee or will automatically renew your contract at the end of its term.

• Be wary of too-good-to-be-true products and deals. Branded workout gear at prices significantly less than what can be found at an authorized retailer is a red flag of a potential scam. 

While it may be appealing to buy in to dietary programs or nutritional supplements that promise amazing results, exercise caution and trust your gut. Losing 20 pounds in two weeks may sound great, but is hardly ever a realistic goal, and may put more stress on your body than is healthy. 

• Use a credit card when shopping online. BBB strongly recommends using a credit card for all online purchases rather than a debit card, wire transfer or mobile banking app transaction. 

In case of a fraudulent seller or business purchase, credit cards offer additional protection and the ability to cancel charges than other forms of payment. 

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