The Internet Does Lie: Spotting Online Fitness and Health Scams.

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For the needy and gullible, the internet can be a dangerous place. Have you noticed how certain ads seem to mirror your search engine results? That’s called targeted advertising. Whatever information you input into the World Wide Web, it gets stored and appears on the web pages you’re browsing thereafter. You would have also come across hundreds of ads claiming to have the solution to your hair fall or body weight problems.

Commercializing the weaknesses of others has become all too common. Coupled with the right images and persuasive copy, these ads beckon to your eager heart. But be warned, what lurks beyond that single click would most definitely be a scam, a breaker of hearts. For starters, any ad or article that teases you or promises you of miraculous health and fitness results should be warning enough, especially if they urge you to use a “mysterious” product.

scam1In hindsight, you may realise that applying some goo on your stomach doesn’t magically flatten it. But in our eagerness to solve particular struggles that we go through, logic doesn’t necessarily prevail. After all, a little hope goes a long way in assuring us that there’s an answer to our concerns. Such claims are nothing but clickbait content. They are of no help and are often factually incorrect. Secondly, you should instantly be alerted if any monetary transactions are involved. Keep an eye out for testimonials or references; they certify the credibility of the site to an extent. But even if the site does not have any fraudulent complaints against them, you shouldn’t have to pay for membership etc.

Chances are that you’d be billed a couple of hundred dollars only to realise that you’re not getting anything in return. It is better to be safe than sorry. Sometimes you may even be required to give more information than is safe, in order to get access to this secret hack. They may push you to create an account at the earliest so that you don’t lose the “opportunity”. But in fact, not doing so would be the most rewarding alternative. A lot of these conmen have gotten hang of online trends and use terms like, “limited stock”, “limited time”, “last offer” to rush you into making a mistake.

People also get persuaded if they see a celebrity’s face or name associated with such claims. Don’t fall for it! We all deal with health and body image issues in some or the other way. The best thing to do is consult a speciality doctor like a dermatologist, dietician, immunologist and so on. Use your instincts to judge something at face value. All that glitters isn’t gold. Just like a well developed app or website doesn’t hint at a reliable source.

adWhen you come across such fake claims, you should immediately report it. This would prevent others from getting trapped and incurring losses. Most regions in the world would have associations that deal with scams. Reach out to them and share the information wherever possible. Thanks to social media, word does spread like wildfire. You never know, you may just save a person from an unfortunate fate. The owners of Lumosity, a cognitive training app, got into serious trouble because of the way their app was marketed. It urged users to play the game so as to prevent mental illnesses and memory loss. In doing so, it made claims that couldn’t be verified scientifically. The company had to pay a large fine which was apparently used to reimburse users who had made in-app purchases.

“In 2015, the FTC took action to stop companies from marketing apps that wrongly claimed to offer health benefits including improving eyesight, improving cognitive abilities in children, diagnosing cancer, and aiding memory, mood, and other brain functions with a dietary supplement.” (“Lumosity fined millions…” 2016). Online health and fitness claims are highly sensationalized; a trick they employ to make their claim appear desirable and genuine.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing genuine about tempting people with a before and after photo of clearer skin or reduced hair fall. As long as the responsible parties are being made to pay the price for deceiving the audience, you can still expect justice. You can still carry on faith that whatever problem you’re coping with, there are thousands of others in the same boat as you. And while you’re diving deep into the internet, be confident of yourself.

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