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TikTok scam promises popular weight loss drugs without a prescription

Weight loss drug scams revealed
Investigation reveals magnitude of dangerous scams claiming to sell weight loss drugs on TikTok 03:44

Weight loss drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic have exploded in popularity over the past couple of years, prompting a shortage. In the midst of the skyrocketing demand, scammers on social media have taken notice by offering to ship weight loss drugs for lower prices — and without a prescription.

A joint investigation conducted from February through April by the nonprofits Digital Citizens Alliance and Coalition for a Safer Web examined dozens of TikTok profiles offering to sell the prescription weight loss drugs at lower prices. In nearly every situation, the transaction turned out to be a scam.

Some of the videos researchers found offering the weight loss drugs used testimonials, along with before and after photos showing what appeared to be results. One video featured a supposed customer's comment, which said, "Great product, fast shipping and I lost 16 pounds already."

However, the researchers said all of those videos were actually scams to lure in vulnerable buyers hoping to lose weight.

"As we searched for them over time because of Tiktok's algorithm, they begin to search for us. So it was not hard to find several dozen operators offering Ozempic. In every case that we found, they have been scams," said Tom Galvin from the Digital Citizens Alliance.

Galvin said he had dozens of online chats with sellers. Some claimed to be legitimate pharmacies offering to ship Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy.

The alleged scammers accepted payments through online services like Zelle, PayPal and Venmo, but the researchers said they never received any products.

TikTok told CBS News in response to the investigation that it removed accounts that violate its guidelines.

A TikTok spokesperson said it "has firm policies prohibiting this behavior." The company added it "proactively identifies 95% of the content it removes for violating its rules against drugs and scams in the U.S."

Galvin said consumers who are duped by ads can be harmed in a number of ways.

"One is that you'll be defrauded. Two is that you'll get drugs, and they'll be counterfeit and be harmful. And three is, you'll actually get Ozempic, but not using Ozempic under a doctor's care can be dangerous, and all three of those things are very bad outcomes for Americans."

According to a Digital Citizens research survey, approximately one in six Americans have used Ozempic or a similar drug. The primary use for these drugs is to control diabetes

A TikTok spokesperson said the study has limitations because it only found a handful of problem accounts, and that prescription drug scams can be found on other social media channels as well.

Meanwhile, the maker of Ozempic and Wegovy told CBS News their products have varying dosages and should not be used outside of their FDA-approved use.

The maker of Mounjaro and Zepbound told CBS News that safety is its highest priority and it is concerned about bad actors on social media platforms.

The manufacturers both say patients should work with their doctors because all of these medications require both a prescription and a licensed health care professional to ensure appropriate use. Patients should only buy from trusted sources to ensure they're getting the real product and report any illegal sellers.

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