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Inside wicked world of ‘skinny scams’ as Ozempic and weight loss drug fraud attempts rise into the hundreds of thousands


OZEMPIC a weight loss drug that has taken Hollywood by storm, leaving behind a trail of loose belts and even baggier wallets.

But the weight loss drug – and others like it – aren’t just on the minds of celebrities and their fans, but scammers too.

These skinny jabs can cost people north of £1,000 ($1,300) per month, according to McAfee[/caption]
Buying Ozempic – and other prescription drugs – without a sign-off from a doctor is illegal[/caption]

There has been an almost 200 per cent spike in Ozempic and weight loss drug related scams online in the first four months of this year, a new report from McAfee has revealed.

The cybersecurity giant has snared 449 malicious websites offering the illegal sale of weight loss drugs in that time, as well as over 170,000 phishing attempts.

And it’s not just the shine of Ozempic that’s luring in consumers, but Wegovy, and other Semaglutide or GLP-1 drugs too.

Celebrities have been shelling out thousands on weight loss drugs in recent months, and have been experiencing dramatic physical changes like so-called ‘Ozempic face’.

Skinny jab prescriptions can cost people north of £1,000 ($1,300) per month, according to McAfee.

So consumers are trying to get their hands on heavily discounted – but illegal – alternatives.

“Cybercriminals are always on the lookout for ways to make their scams more attractive and believable,” said Abhishek Karnik, head of McAfee’s Threat Research Team.

“Tapping into the current craze for Ozempic and related weight loss drugs is one way scammers can lure you in through phishing emails, fake social posts, or ads, all under the guise of a deal that seems too good to be true.”

Lethal lottery

Medications that work like Ozempic are not available over the counter.

But buying Ozempic – and other prescription drugs – without a sign-off from a doctor is illegal in the UK and the US.

As is the way with many illicit activities, people will search for them anyway – particularly if they’re being advertised as ‘safe’ and ‘cheap’.

These sites promise weight-loss drugs at a discounted price, without prescription or delay, which could be tempting for many.

Abhishek Karnik, head of McAfee’s Threat Research Team

Dieters seeking illegal skinny jabs online are not only putting their life saving’s at risk, but their lives.

A Sun on Sunday investigation previously revealed that the quantity and strength of the active ingredient in the weight loss injections varies enormously between suppliers.

Michelle Sword, who bought a fake Ozempic jab on Facebook for £150 ($190), nearly died after injecting it.

Everything you need to know about fat jabs

Weight loss jabs are a hot media topic at the moment, with hundreds of success stories from people who shed the pounds.

In March 2023, the NHS announced it would make Wegovy, a drug made by Danish firm Novo Nordisk, available on prescription to thousands of obese Brits.

It contains the drug semaglutide, which is said to have helped reality star Kim Kardashian and Twitter boss Elon Musk lose weight.

Wegovy, which helped a third of people reduce their weight by 20 per cent in trials, is now available from pharmacies like Boots.

How do they work?

The jabs work by suppressing your appetite, making you eat less and therefore lose weight.

To do this, semaglutide mimics the role of a natural hormone, called GLP-1.

GLP-1 is part of the signalling pathway that tells your body you have eaten, and prepares it to use the energy that comes from your food.

London GP and founder of, Dr Zoe Watson, said: “Your body naturally produces an appetite regulating hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1.

“These jabs work by regulating your appetite, which can lead to eating fewer calories and losing weight.”

Aren’t they diabetes drugs?

Semaglutide, the active drug in Wegovy, was originally sold under the name Ozempic specifically for diabetes patients.

But people started noticing it helped suppress their appetites, stopping them eating as much and helping them shed the pounds.

Novo Nordisk then developed Wegovy, which contains the same chemical but at higher doses specifically to aid weight loss.

Wegovy is not prescribed for diabetes patients.

Can I get them?

Wegovy is offered on prescription to obese adults given specialist weight loss treatment.

The NHS currently also offers a similar drug called Saxenda, or liraglutide.

Both are only available on Tier 3 and Tier 4 weight management services, which means you have to be referred to weight management clinics led by experts.

GPs can’t prescribe them on their own either, Dr Watson said. 

The jabs have to be taken as part of an overall programme to help with lifestyle changes and psychological support to get the best effect from the medication prescribed. 

Despite being approved for use, supply of Wegovy on the NHS has been postponed indefinitely because of a surge in worldwide demand.

Supply was also halved in the US because of the skyrocketing demand.

Are there any risks?

Like all medicines, the jabs do not come without side effects.

Around half of people taking the drug experience gut issues, including sickness, bloating, acid reflux, constipation and diarrhoea.

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical consultant at, said: “One of the more uncommon side effects is severe acute pancreatitis, which is extremely painful and happens to one in 500 people.”

Other uncommon side effects include altered taste, kidney problems, allergic reactions, thyroid tumours, gallbladder problems and hypoglycemia.

What other options are there?

Mounjaro (brand name for tirzepatide) also came onto the market in early 2024.

Like Wegovy, tirzepatide stems from a drug originally designed to treat diabetes.

The weekly injection helped overweight people drop more than two stone in 18 months.

It is available with to order with a prescription online from pharmacies including Superdrug and LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor.

It works in a similar way to Wegovy and Saxenda, but is more effective.

Dr Mitra Dutt from LloydsPharmacy says: “Based on clinical trials, 96 per cent of people were able to lose more than five per cent of their body fat using Mounjaro. In similar trials, 84 per cent of people lost more than five per cent of their body weight on Wegovy, and 60 per cent on Saxenda.

“Mounjaro works by activating two hormonal receptors (GIP and GLP-1), which enhance insulin production, improve insulin sensitivity, and work to decrease food intake.”

Dieters seeking illegal skinny jabs online are not only putting their life saving’s at risk, but their lives[/caption]

Carefully crafted

McAfee says these malicious websites are carefully crafted, often using artificial intelligence (AI) for an air of legitimacy.

They entice consumers in the same ways a Summer Sale on Asos might – through countdown clocks and banners asserting urgency.

Most websites have little other purpose than to entice consumers into clicking a nefarious link to steal and sell their personal information, and take off with their bank details.

Other scammers have advertisements and group pages on social media and message groups.

Many who send off a payment, receive nothing in return.

Instead of the medication you’re hoping for, you’ll be opening yourself up to money loss and data and identity theft.

Abhishek Karnik, head of McAfee’s Threat Research Team
Because the transaction was illegal to begin with, there is nothing consumers can do to retrieve their lost funds[/caption]

‘Few hundred to several thousand’

The amount of money being lost to weight loss scams is significant, McAfee warns, ranging from a ‘few hundred to several thousand’ pounds.

And because the transaction was illegal to begin with, there is nothing consumers can do to retrieve their lost funds.

The success of the scam, which preys on a body image crisis sweeping Europe and North America, has dumped millions of dollars into the pockets of fraudsters in a matter of months, according to the report.

“These sites promise weight-loss drugs at a discounted price, without prescription or delay, which could be tempting for many,” Karnik cautioned.

“However, instead of the medication you’re hoping for, you’ll be opening yourself up to money loss and data and identity theft.

“When it comes to avoiding these types of drug scams, the safest decision is to purchase from a reputable medical provider or pharmacy that requires a prescription.”

Don't fall victim: Five steps to protect yourself

  • Stay away from unofficial retailers
  • Be wary of ultra-low prices
  • Avoid alternative payment options like bitcoin or wire funds
  • Keep an eye out for errors, spelling mistakes and missing product details
  • Don’t fall for misleading claims – always do your own research

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