THE BLOG

Slimming Supplement 'Scam' - How Would the Public Know the Difference?

26/03/2013 13:45 GMT | Updated 25/05/2013 10:12 BST

Green coffee beans, acai berries, African mango, white bean extract, chia, apple cider vinegar and bitter orange.

It seems every month, there's a new weight-loss miracle in a bottle on the market. The list of claims about the efficacy of each product is as long as the range of products itself.

The latest supplement to hit the market is a product called raspberry ketone. A compound of the fruit, raspberry ketones in supplement form have become a hit due to a very public endorsement by Dr Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon who has his own television show in the US.

Following Dr Oz's endorsement, a number of companies appeared, each promoting their own version of a raspberry ketone product.

One such company is Ketone Premium. On looking into their 'trial supplement' offer it became obvious to me that there was general sense of dissatisfaction from consumers who didn't realize that taking part in the free trial automatically tied them into a contract to purchase a certain amount of supplement per month.

Seeking out the terms and conditions of their trial offer, it seemed everything was above board. The terms and conditions did state that the trial offer would automatically roll over into an ongoing subscription unless the consumer stated that they wanted to cancel the arrangement.

Searching into Ketone Premium in general on the Internet, I came across an article from the well-renowned Women's Health site.

The article, 'Raspberry Ketone Exposed: Miracle Diet or Scam', was written by a journalist named Julia Miller. Two products were reviewed - 'Ketone Premium' and 'Cleanse Premium'. Clicking on 'Cleanse Premium' in the body of the article takes you to the Ketone Premium website.

In this 'review' only one product was mentioned: Ketone Premium. This is when I started to suspect that something was amiss.

But surely, this was a legitimate article endorsed by Women's Health? By clicking on each link at the top of the page to go back to the Women's Health homepage, I was taken instead to the Ketone Premium website.

At this point, I consulted Stephen Willard, an independent branding professional, who confirmed what I had begun to suspect: the page I was looking at, supposedly an official Women's Health article, was, in fact, a fake.

Says Willard ' I knew this was a fake within seconds. The live feeds, such as the weather widget, are purely fixed graphics that do not update. And, as already discovered, the hyperlinks all link back to the product's sales portal.

'Further to this, ' continues Willard, 'copy has been written with extreme bias. The reviews towards the bottom of the page are rather dubious and far too flattering and inconsistent with the feedback you'd expect from even the most popular of products. The posting dates also change day by day which again is another clue as to their authenticity.'

But surely, the endorsements from various well known entities at the top of the article - The Guardian, Lorraine, This Morning - any company that knew anything about branding would know not to name those brands without permission?

It seems I was wrong. I contacted The Guardian, Lorraine and This Morning to ask if they had ever endorsed Ketone Premium. All came back to me with a categorical denial - not only had they never endorsed Ketone Premium as a product, they had never mentioned raspberry ketones at all.

So it would appear that Ketone Premium were falsely claiming to have been endorsed by brands with name recognition in the UK.

Probing even further led to another surprise - the journalist Julia Miller, who supposedly authored the false Women's Health piece, wasn't actually a real person.

This had already been explored by Dan Nessel on Ezinearticles, who noticed that Julia Miller had also 'investigated' the efficacy of Acai Berries as a weight loss supplement - but the Julia Miller in that article was a blue eyed blonde, whereas the Ketone Premium Julia Miller was a brunette. Further probing by the authors of these websites revealed all images of 'Julia Miller' to be stock photographs.

Now it may be that all of what I've uncovered may be explained away by stating that Ketone Premium are doing what they can to capitalize on a public desperate to get their hands on the latest weight-loss miracle. It is up for the public to decide what they buy, and why they buy it.

But how would an unsuspecting, and trusting, public know that the endorsements of Ketone Premium products in this article weren't actually genuine? As Stephen Willard says

'At first glance consumers would quite rightly be convinced by the (false Women's Health) website. Only when appraised from a technical perspective it is evident that it is in fact a complete façade'.

MORE: