Online Weight Loss Scams See 200% Rise

( – The latest figures from the CDC confirm that one in five adults suffers from obesity. Twenty-two states have an adult obesity prevalence rate of at least 35%. Understandably, people want to look better, feel healthier, and seek quick ways to lose weight. Unfortunately, due to rising scams, the only weight loss some people experience is one to their wallets.

On June 12, the global computer security software company McAfee Corp. published a report detailing the rising prevalence of online scams associated with Ozempic and other glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) weight loss drugs. McAfee’s Threat Research Team warned that “scammers are cashing in on demand,” as pharmacies struggle to fill more than a million prescriptions of those medications weekly.

Putting that figure in perspective, the market for prescription weight loss drugs has expanded from $500 million in 2020 to an estimated $7.5 billion in 2024. In other words, the demand for those medications is expected to increase by 1,400% over a four-year span ending on December 31.

Crunching the numbers even further, McAfee researchers determined that “malicious phishing attempts focusing on Ozempic, Semaglutide, and Wegovy rose 183% during the last quarter of 2023. They also discovered nearly 180,000 “dangerous phishing attempts centered around” those prescription drugs and 449 risky websites.

McAfee’s report also warned of the perils of broader scams on social media platforms and online marketplaces. For instance, scammers posing as physicians operating outside the United States use fake accounts on Facebook to promote online sales of weight loss drugs without a prescription. Likewise, cybercriminals routinely use established markets to promote their scams. McAfee reported that its researchers “identified 207 scam postings for Ozempic” in just one day in April.

Fortunately, avoiding online weight loss medication scams is relatively simple. First, GLP-1 drugs are available only by prescription. Anyone selling them online without one is a scammer. Second, avoid any online companies offering unusually low prices. Ozempic costs nearly $1,000 per month without insurance, and other brands cost even more. Third, avoid any online markets that only accept non-standard payment methods like Venmo, Zelle, and Bitcoin.

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