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Beware of online advertising scams

November 12, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
You see an advertisement saying "try it for free" for very little money, but soon after, you get a big charge on your credit-card bill. More ads in e-mails and on the Internet are offering free samples that are anything but free.Ora Munter just wanted to lose a little weight. So when this Westwood woman saw an e-mail ad that claimed Oprah Winfrey and President Barack Obama were endorsing a product called Slim Chews, she was willing to give it a try.

"They promised that you could chew this berry-tasting candy that would eliminate your appetite so that you could go without eating for a longer period of time," said Munter.

And besides, a trial package was only a dollar plus about five dollars for shipping. But when she got the package...

"It just tasted horrible," said Munter. "

I tasted the Slim Chews too, and Ora is right, not much flavor and a little too chewy.

But the flavor and texture were not all that left a sour taste in Munter's mouth.

You see, she soon got two more charges from Slim Chews. This time the total was nearly $100.

"I wanted to save money on food. Little did I know their plan was to steal my money so I couldn't buy any food. I mean, that's some diet, right?" said Munter.

Buried in the fine print Munter found out that by merely trying out the product she had agreed to the company's terms and conditions,

So her credit-card company wouldn't reverse the charges. And Slim Chews couldn't be reached.

On the envelope containing the Slim Chews that Munter received was a return address. That address is on 7th Street in Santa Monica, at a mailbox rentals store.

According to the Better Business Bureau Slim Chews has a rating of "F" for failure to honor their refund policy and for failure to respond to consumer complaints.

Alleging consumer fraud the Attorney General in Arizona won more than a million dollars in fines and restitution from the parent company, Central Coast Neutraceuticals.

So for a hundred bucks, Munter is stuck with some tasteless candy.

Here's what you need to know to avoid being taken:

  • Be wary of claims that promise immediate, effortless, and/or guaranteed weight loss
  • Watch for buzzwords like "breakthrough," "secret," "exclusive" or "miraculous" in advertisements
  • Be skeptical of self-proclaimed health advisors
  • Be cautious of vaguely worded testimonials that can't be verified

"It was Oprah and Obama and somehow it hooked me," said Munter.


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