Don’t Get Caught in a Weight-Loss Scam!

January is prime time to get into shape.

This year in particular, many Americans are struggling to shed the “quarantine 15,” or the pounds packed on during all those months when life happened over Zoom and nobody saw what you were wearing below the waist. In fact, the snack company that brings us Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers reports that sales have increased  by more than 16% since 2019. And hard as it may be to believe, at some point in the future, it will no longer be socially acceptable to attend a business meeting, a friend’s formal dinner party or your sister’s wedding while wearing sweatpants.

Unfortunately, scammers know this as well as anyone, and they are out in full force, trying to scam consumers with bogus weight-loss products, miracle drugs and more. Gyms aren’t far behind, with many of them offering misleading contracts that are impossible to get out of once they’re signed.

Don’t get scammed! Lose the pounds you’re looking to shed this winter — not your money.

Here’s what you need to know about weight-loss scams and how to avoid them.

1. Gym scams

Scams at the gym generally fall into the category of false advertising and misleading claims. The BBB https://www.bbb.org/article/tips/13250-bbb-tip-joining-a-gym urges consumers to take the following precautions before signing up for a gym membership:

  • Check the gym on BBB.org  to see what previous and current customers have to say about it.
  • Ask about a free trial so you can see what the gym is like before signing a contract.
  • Don’t feel pressured into signing a contract. A reputable gym will grant you the time and the discretion to review the contract and to make the decision at your own pace.
  • Calculate the true cost of a membership. Gyms often lure new members with low prices that are only valid for an “introductory period.” Can you afford to pay the full monthly membership when this period ends?
  • Understand the terms of the contract. If anything is vague or unclear, don’t hesitate to ask a salesperson to explain it to you.
  • Find out the gym’s cancellation policy. What happens if circumstances beyond your control make you unable to attend the gym?

Despite your best efforts, you may end up getting scammed by the gym. Perhaps the terms of your contract were ambiguous, or you failed to calculate the extra added expenses that were only tacked on after the first month. In other circumstances, gyms will automatically renew a membership at the end of a contract unless the member takes action. And some gyms tack on extra “maintenance fees” without being up front about it when the contract is signed.

If you believe your gym has acted in bad faith, you may have legal options. Several states, including California, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Maryland, Ohio, Oregon and Washington, have statutes for the health club industry. Facilities that fail to comply with these laws are subject to penalties and fines. If your gym fails to reimburse you for what you believe was a falsely advertised contract, it may be worthwhile to pursue legal action.

You can also file a complaint with the BBB at BBB.org.

2. Weight-loss product scams

Bogus diet products and programs are the most commonly reported health care scams to the FTC. These can range from miracle drugs promising instant weight loss, companies paying social media influencers to promote their unproven products and even phony websites filled with fake articles about celebrities who allegedly saw amazing results with these products.

Scammy weight-loss products can be ridiculously overpriced, may contain harmful or unregulated drugs or may offer a free trial that comes with hidden charges.

Here’s how to spot a weight-loss product scam:

  • Advertised products sound too good to be true, touted as “revolutionary” or a “miracle breakthrough.”
  • Product promises a specific amount of weight loss in a specific amount of time.
  • A search of the company on the BBB website brings up negative reviews and reports of scams.
  • As a general rule, it’s a good idea not to trust weight-loss products that offer you results without requiring you to change your eating habits or lifestyle. In addition, weight-loss body wraps, patches, creams, lotions or gadgets are always scams. The FTC cautions that nothing worn or applied to the skin can produce substantial weight loss.

If you’re looking to drop some of those pounds you packed on during quarantine, it’s best to go the old-fashioned route: Eat less and move more. Keep your money safe from weight-loss scams!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a weight loss scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
bbb.org
wnep.com
stories.avvo.com
aarp.org

Don’t Get Scammed At The Gym!

Personal trainer in a gym reviews the exercise & diet with her clientAs soon as the calendar hits Jan. 2, the gyms are packed with people who are eager to make good on their New Year’s resolutions. If you’re one of the thousands of newbies making your way to fitness centers this month, beware of these five subtle scams that can end up thinning your wallet more than your physique.

The free trial
Free trials at fitness centers are super-popular right after the holidays. It sounds like a no-brainer: no money, and you get to try out the gym for free! Unfortunately, though, free trials can ultimately end up costing you a pretty penny. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns against sharing your credit card information with a gym that’s offering a free trial because many will start automatically charging you a monthly fee unless you remember to cancel your “membership” by a certain timeframe. You may even find yourself committed to a full year!

The fix: Read the fine print carefully on any free trial offer. If possible, only take advantage of a free trial offered without asking for any financial information.

The no-cancellation policy
Gyms depend on strong membership numbers. This can sometimes translate into high-pressure sales tactics-or worse. Lots of fitness centers will not let you out of a contract until a full year is up, no matter what. You’ll be stuck paying that membership all year even if you find the gym is not the right fit for you, if you develop a medical condition that makes use of the gym impossible or you end up moving out of town.

The fix: Before signing up for a gym membership, ask about their cancellation policy. If it’s too rigid, look for another gym.

“Certified” personal trainers
Another way gyms get you is by charging you extra for the service of an on-staff personal trainer. The catch? Lots of these “trainers” have not completed their certification process, or may even be completely untrained! This means you’re essentially paying through the roof to have a glorified coach help you work out. You can also end up getting injured if the trainer puts you through a workout that is overly strenuous for your personal capacity.

The fix: Before signing up to work with a personal trainer, ask to see their certification. Look for NSCA, ACSM, NASM and ACE.

No health-history form
In our litigation-happy society, every business and service provider is deathly afraid of being sued. Gyms are no exception. To help them avoid getting dragged to court for injuries incurred while using their machines, many fitness centers have stopped making new members fill out a health-history form and/or a PAR-Q-a standard questionnaire for exercise readiness. This way, instead of reviewing members’ health histories and lifestyle details so they can direct them toward appropriate machines and workouts, gyms have effectively absolved themselves from exercise-related injuries.

The fix: Be wary of signing up at gyms that don’t ask any questions about your medical history or personal lifestyle.

Equipment-maintenance fees
Many fitness centers have started charging members a quarterly or monthly equipment-maintenance fee on top of their membership dues. This practice begs the question: If you’re paying a fee for the upkeep of the exercise equipment, why are you also paying a membership fee?

The fix: Ask about any additional fees before signing up for a gym membership.

Get fit without the gym
If you’re looking to shed some pounds and build muscles this year, you don’t need a gym. You can download some great workout tutorials online, invite some friends over and exercise at home! There are also lots of exercises you can do without any expensive equipment, like squats, lunges, T-handle swings, push-ups, pull-ups, dips, stretches and more. For an aerobics workout, you can bundle up and go for a walk, sprint or jog outdoors instead of running nowhere on a treadmill in a noisy gym. You can get fit without paying a small fortune!

If you need the commitment to working out that a gym membership can give you, go for it, but proceed with caution. Avoid getting scammed at the gym by looking out for the less-than-savory business practices, and by doing extensive research on any fitness center you might want to join.

Best of luck on your fitness quest in 2020 from all of us here at Advantage One Credit Union!

Your Turn:
Have you had an unsatisfactory business relationship with a fitness center? Share it with us in the comments.

Learn More:
joe-cannon.com
nattyornot.com
witn.com

6 New Year’s Resolutions For A Financially Improved You

syellow sticky note on computer keyboard next to planner that reads," New years' Resolutions 2019"Here are our top six resolutions you can commit to that will really add up over the course of a year.

  1. Increase your savings. Even if it’s only by 5%, every little bit adds up.
  2. Cut out one impulse purchase a week.
  3. Trim your electricity bills by making sure your appliances are all running efficiently and conserving as much energy as possible.
  4. Increase your marketability by learning new skills or broadening your knowledge in your chosen field.
  5. Pay down your debt by making it a priority.
  6. Spend less on groceries. Do whatever it takes to make it happen: coupon more, cash in on rebates, and shop the sales.

Your Turn:
Have you made any significant financial resolutions over the past year? Share them with us in the comments!

Healthy New Year’s Resolutions You Should Actually Stick To

Make 2016 a year unlike any other with these resolutions

It is a common practiceNewYearsRes_Featured for individuals to set resolutions for the New Year. Typically, health-related goals are chief among these aspirations. Typically, they involve going to the gym more, eating better or quitting some degree of bad habit. It can be quite easy to fall off the wagon with resolutions once the shimmer of the New Year has worn off, but 2016 can be the year where you finally stick to your pledges and improve your quality of life. To help, here are resolutions for 2016 that you should strive to achieve.

Cut down on cigarettes
If you are a smoker, then you probably know the difficulty in trying to quit for good. It is not an easy task to try and quit cold turkey, so perhaps the best approach is to slowly wean yourself from the need to smoke. One method is quantifying how much you smoke. If you are a pack-a-day smoker, then you are smoking around 20 cigarettes a day and spending anywhere between $6 and $10 on your habit. Making a conscious effort to cut that number will not only help you better see the financial advantages of quitting for good, but it could also help your body adjust to a point where quitting becomes a possibility.

Increase your exercise at home
If you work 40 hours a week (or more), then trying to carve out an hour or more every day to go to the gym can become a chore. However, you can save yourself a lot of climbing over mental hurdles by performing simple and effective bodyweight exercises in your own home. Spending between 15 – 30 minutes doing burpees, crunches, push-ups or resistance band routines will not only have you feeling fitter, but it will also help you create a rhythm should you decide to spring for a gym membership down the line.

Planning and portioning your meals
One of the reasons that fad diets tend not to work is because they are temporary solutions to a long-term problem. In order to lose weight, you should understand that you have to change your lifestyle as opposed to adopting a diet for a handful of weeks or even months. One of the best ways to change your lifestyle is to create good habits, and there are no better habits than preparing your own meals and portioning out your food correctly, according to Health.com. By preparing food at home, you can determine your caloric intake down to the gram, and you will manage to save yourself a ton of money in the process. Rather than spring for lunch out at the office, consider spending a few hours on the weekend preparing your meals for the week to come; this habit will better attune you to your dietary needs and it will teach you the dedication necessary to stick to dietary changes for the long-term.

Be mindful of your fluids
You can easily lose some excess weight by simply giving up carbonated colas, especially if you drink one or more cans of soda a day. If you demand something flavorful, there are countless flavored water products that should satiate your sweet tooth without the exorbitant sugar. Alternatively, green tea is a great means to get antioxidants into your system, and black coffee – both caffeinated and non-caffeinated – keeps you alert during the day without the added risk of tooth decay. The greatest alternative to soda, however, is water. WebMD recommends consuming roughly eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day (although much of this water comes from the food you eat). Being mindful of your water intake and keeping track of it promotes better hydration and more energy.

The saying goes that it takes three weeks to form a new habit or break an old one. If you want to look better, feel better and be better, try one or all of these easy resolutions in 2016.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

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