Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: The Case of the Mystery Scam Pills

Q&A Wednesday: The Case of the Mystery Scam Pills

by Erika Nicole Kendall
supplements and pills are the worst, ever

Let me tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, I received the following message:

Hulo! Love yo page i need yo help on something.. What weight loss supplements could these be? my sister is using them but the bottle had no label and shes reacting to them so we need to r sure shes not allergic to any of the content. The pills are to be taken for a period of two weeks..Thanks

I’m not going to share the photo of the pills, but it’s safe to say that there was nothing remarkable or unique about these pills.

I asked, “Did the bottle not have a label when she began taking them? Does she have any idea what they were supposed to be for?”

No it didn’t have a label guess the person that sells them doesn’t want people to know the name so she makes more money but the person that sold them to her told her they are weight loss supplements that should be taken for 2weeks and that she would see results in 2weeks all through a month. They are 24 pills in a pack. To be taken 2 pills a day morning and night..

Shez complaining about her throat…a bit like thyroid signs…But yo not familiar with any pills that have this shape and color and are meant to be taken for 2 weeks? The person that sold them to her is from [redacted] and she swears she lost her weight with these supplements..But she’s out of the country and we are a bit concerned about these side effects. Doc says she should first tell them the name of the pills to see what meds can be given to her.. […]

We were ultimately able to help her friend – more on that later – but this should serve as instructive for many of us out there.

Weight loss is hard work. I completely understand. And, because it’s so hard, we look for tools to help us simplify the task. Ideally, fat burners and the like would help.

More often than not, however, they don’t.

When you buy pills from a stranger – pills that don’t even have a label in them, by the way – you should expect the stranger to have an understanding of what’s in them. If this is their product to sell, they should know what’s in it and why each ingredient combines with the others to help it achieve your intended goal. If they do not, consider that a red flag.

When you buy something from someone and it doesn’t even have a label on it, you should consider that cause for concern – you’re so eager to sell, sell, sell, that you can’t even be bothered to follow through on the marketing for it? The most compelling piece of marketing for any product is the packaging it comes wrapped in. The packaging is supposed to tell you everything you need to know to make you comfortable with making your purchase. When not even that is present – as the question-asker said, because the seller feared that telling you would jeopardize their cash flow – consider that a red flag.

And yeah, about that. If a person has a product that is truly valuable and helpful and necessary, they wouldn’t be hiding information about a product from you out of fear that you’d simply get it elsewhere. If what they’re selling is truly valuable and helpful – and fairly priced – they wouldn’t have to hide information to prevent you from doing your due diligence. If they have to hide info from you – which, to me, is a form of lying – consider that a red flag.

The challenge with these kinds of situations is that these pills are literally made from anything. A PBS NewsHour expose once uncovered that there are supplements out there made from anything and everything….everything except what’s reported on the label. (This is especially awkward when there isn’t even a label on the bottle.)

I’m going to tell you a story. (Yes, a story within a story.)

Once upon a time, I was offered my own brand of fat burner pills. A manufacturing company in China reached out to me via FB, complimented me on the size of my FB page, and made a hard pitch to me that I could easily “profit from” that size by selling them fat burner pills. I mean, they want to lose weight, right? This should’ve been a no brainer.

It was explained to me that I would need to contract with someone to create my label and branding, they would manufacture the pills and bottle them, and they’d be sent to another company to have the labels put on and distribute the orders as they came in. I’d be outfitted with a platform to process my sales, and whatever was left from what I set my price as after paying the manufacturer and distributor, was mine.

Count the problems.

I have no idea what’s in this, no idea where it’s all coming from, no idea about the packaging, the shipping, nothing. And that’s just a start.

These things matter, especially when – as a means of saving money – these pills are often made with ingredients that are known allergens (like wheat and peanut flour, perhaps?) and can cause the very throat issues that she experienced, especially if she’s unaware that she has an allergy. (Or, if consuming the allergen in a different form or combined with new or different ingredients resulted in the allergic reaction.)

I am wholly and completely empathetic to the desire to “hurry up and get this weight off,” but we underestimate the risks associated with just taking any old product. It could react negatively with medications we’re already taking, it could trigger something hormonally that we aren’t prepared for, it could uncover or trigger an allergic reaction we’d never had before and damn near kill us.

And, when there’s a completely and utterly healthy method of weight loss out there for us, is it truly worth it to risk it?

I can’t decide that for you – I can only be here to help when you decide to put the stranger danger pills down.

However, when you find yourself in a situation like this, your best bet is always to call your local Poison Control Center. Pay your emergency room a visit or call your doctor, and send an e-mail to a doctor at some kind of teaching hospital to find out if they can help you figure out what it was that’s in those pills. You can also consider calling your local news reporter and finding out whether or not they’d take up the story, as well. A nearby university might also be interested in testing out the pills to figure out what the deal was, too. Either way, you absolutely should find out what it was that caused your throat to reach. There’s nothing worse than having things happen to your body that you don’t understand.

And, really…leave the stranger danger pills alone. I’m begging you.

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