Tiny Belly "Tip" Turns Out to Be Giant Internet Scam

MakenzieR on 8 Jul 2011 at 9:00am

Have you clicked on an ad for one of the biggest scams on the Internet? 

I did. In fact, I bought it. 

tiny belly tip is internet scam

You may have seen ads like this on major news sites, such as The Washington Post, which reports the story about how a little ad for a tiny belly has taken in at least $1 billion and counting:

The innocent-seeming “1 Tip” ad is actually the tip of something much larger: a vast array of diet and weight-loss companies hawking everything from pills made from African mangoes to potions made from exotic acai berries. Federal officials have alleged that the companies behind the ads make inflated claims about their products and use deceptive means to market them.

tiny belly scam sued by FTCUsers are taken to a "news" site which "investigates" the effectiveness of the product.

Almost everything about these would-be news sites is bogus, the federal government contends. It has said that the offer of free or low-cost samples is a scheme to capture consumers’ credit card numbers, leading to thousands of complaints about unauthorized charges.

Take it from me, that's exactly what happens.

I consider myself pretty savvy and wary of schemes, but one day towards the end of college I saw one of these ads for the umpteenth time and decided "why not?" All they wanted was shipping; I figured I didn't have anything to lose but six bucks! 

I honestly can't remember if my second shipment came in before or after I noticed the charge on my debit card. As a somewhat starving college student I checked my account balance frequently. I couldn't account for some missing money, so I looked closely at my statement. 

flat belly scam sweeps internetThere it was: $79.99 for some product I couldn't quite decipher. But there was a 1-800 number in the description, so I called it. The details of how I figured out what exactly had happened are fuzzy now. I do know that it took me being very firm and demanding to get my money back, but they refunded me. My guess is that they get enough complaints, they refund those who take the time to call. Sadly, I imagine not everyone takes that time. 

Oh, and the pills did not work. 

Now, the FTC is suing the affiliate companies who have marketed these diet schemes online for the product companies -- and received part of the profit.

When a would-be customer clicks the links on the affiliate site and orders products from the merchant’s site, the affiliate receives a cut of the purchase. The payment varies from company to company, but FTC investigators found evidence that it can be as much as $30 per order.

Although many of the marketing affiliates are being investigated and charged, the sad truth is these ads are still going around. You'll likely still see them from similar companies and on somewhat reliable websites. 

If there's a lesson to be learned, it's one that is frequently echoed by our community of doctors when anyone asks about the latest and greatest "no pain, no recovery" procedure: The best way to get thin is a healthy diet and exercise, because there are no miracles short of expensive, invasive surgery


Comments (6)

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I never clicked on any of those ads specifically *because* they are ads. However, I did find myself wondering what that "one weird tip" could be. I thought it might be something like cutting soda from the diet, but then why would they have ads for that?
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Sadly, if it sounds to good to be true, it most likely IS.

Drink lots of water, and alter your diet and exercise program. Most of us know what we SHOULD do, we just want that quick fix.

When ever you get weak and start to think, "Maybe this IS a Super Food Amazing Cure!" stop and ask yourself, "If there was REALLY a quick fix, wouldn't Oprah be talking about it?"

Of course, I'm just kidding, but the point is: step back and get some perspective. Before you buy a quick fix, sleep on it...chances are a more logical YOU will not waste the money.

Dr. Andy
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Those ads are so annoying!  The tough part about losing weight is that even exercise isn't enough -- our bodies adjust our appetite so we have to starve ourselves to loose weight.  And starving yourself has a lot of negative emotional effects. 

A change of diet often works better than adding exercise because many people feel they can "reward" themselves after exercise with foods with extra calories.

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Yes they do! My family used to go hiking and then finish the day at Red Robin...
Although my justification was that I'd probably have gone there anyway, so at least I was burning some extra calories :) Thankfully I've moved past that stage!

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Glad to hear the FTC is getting involved.

I tried a weight loss patch when I was in college. I can't even remember why it was supposed to work but, alas, it didn't. There just isn't any substitute for sweating it out at the gym.

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