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Watch Out for This Scam

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August 05, 2013 · 1.1k Views

If you would like to take advantage of a free promotional offer, great! Just don’t get out your credit or debit card. That’s how so many consumers were scammed into buying more acai berry than they anticipated. It is safe to assume that If a company requires you to provide them with your card number, you are going to be billed for something, despite claims that their products are free. As some people have discovered, you may be in for more of a trial than you bargained for.

While there are dozens of similar scams, one recent example involved acai berry supplements.

What was promised in the alleged acai berry scam?
“Major weight loss in short periods of time may occur,” according to AcaiPure’s claim. Can you think of a better slogan for selling a bottle of pills? Weight loss studies from the medical community were cited. However, the Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit says that AcaiPure does not cause major weight loss, nor does its manufacturer have proof that it does.

In addition to promises of significant weight loss and proof of effectiveness, the manufacturer claimed that AcaiPure had endorsements from Oprah Winfrey and Rachel Ray. According to the two trusted celebrities while acai may have been mentioned on their shows, neither celebrity endorsed any specific acai berry product.

How does the acai berry scam work?
Pop-up ads may appear on your computer screen for a FREE 30-day trial bottle of AcaiPure, a weight-loss product from Central Coast Nutraceuticals (CCN). Just pay $4.95 to cover shipping and handling. Sounds reasonable, right? The deal seems simple: Try it and if you don’t like it, return the bottle and don’t pay anything. But what if the package comes with a bill for $68 that was already charged to your card?

If you loved the product, maybe the charge seems reasonable. However, when some consumers who did not like AcaiPure complained, CCN would not remove the charges. Representatives blamed the buyers: “you did not read the fine print.”

CCN hid another warning in the fine print: there would be a 15 percent restocking fee if the product was returned. Of course, before you mail the bottle back, you have to get a return authorization number and pay return shopping. Just try getting that number!

Further, trial bottles had to be returned within 14 days. This tight turn around window meant that some consumers hadn’t even received their free trial bottle before the return date had passed.

But that’s not all! CCN often did not reveal that the company would automatically ship buyers another 30-day supply of the products every month. Those new shipments would be billed at full price to the credit or debit card used to pay for the shipping of the trial sample. Meanwhile charges continue to be billed…and billed …and billed…

What are consumers and the government doing about the scam?
The Better Business Bureau has received nearly 3,000 complaints about Central Coast Nutraceuticals in the past few years. The issues? Billing and refunds. Acai berry weight loss pills (AcaiPure) and colon cleansing supplement (Colopure) sold via the internet were investigated as a scam. It turns out that the main ingredients in both products is a laxative! The Federal Trade Commission has received a judge’s approval to prohibit the deceptive claims, freeze the company’s assets, and to turn CCN over to a court-appointed receiver. Consumers lost tens of millions of dollars, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Perhaps more than a million consumers are affected. Litigation is currently pending.

The good news is that if this or something similar happened to you, you can probably get the charges reversed if you used a credit card. The bad news is that if you used a debit card, you may have to cancel the card to get the charges to stop. Whatever you do, don’t keep quiet. Be sure to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission to report the scam. The moral of the story, never give your credit or debit card number to a company that you don’t trust completely!

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