TODAY   |  February 28, 2014

Rossen Reports: Some diet photos aren’t legit

TODAY’s national investigative correspondent reveals the deception behind some “before and after” weight-loss pictures, and shows how some companies manipulate images.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now on a friday morning. this morning on rossen reports, those catchy weight loss ads. they can draw you in with the dramatic before and after photos. but "today" investigative correspondent jeff rossen is revealing the surprising truth behind some of these ads. jeff, good morning.

>> hey, savannah, good morning. perfect time for this as we're focusing on body image all week here on "today." if you're anything like me and i'm guessing you are, you're always looking to trim down. so i started looking into those diet ads we see everywhere. they make it look so easy with products that will get you fit quick. the real selling point, those amazing before and after photos of real customers. just how real are they? we're taking you behind the camera to expose the tricks of the trade. the ads sure grab you. buy our product and you, too, can go from this to this fast. take this ad for a weight loss tee with glowing testimonials from customers like brooke . it says she lost 68 pounds. just look at her photos.

>> and it has this quote coming from you, it's the only one i would have used, i'm extremely happy with the results, looks like i'll be drinking tea now.

>> completely false.

>> have you ever had this tea?

>> no, i didn't even drink the tea. i don't know what the tea is.

>> that's brooke , a california mother of two. she really did lose the weight, but not from any product. instead, from a year of hard dieting and exercise. proud of herself, she posted these before and after spphotos on her personal blog .

>> they took my image from my blog and pulled it to promote their product. i was shocked. that's how i felt initially, very shocked.

>> in fact, our investigation found while many use legit photos, the industry is full of tricks. take this woman. her shrinking figure has appeared in many ads. this one called her jenny conrad. here she's nicole stevenson . in another kathy thomas. she's really a plus-size model from germany whose image is for sale on stock photo sites like this. those after picks? photo shopped to make her look thinner.

>> easy to fake those photos.

>> just ask personal trainer andrew dixon .

>> how long did it take you to go from this to this?

>> about five minutes.

>> reporter: he's about to show us the art of going from fat to fit in a flash.

>> if i can do it, anyone can do it.

>> first, the before shot.

>> i just let my gut hang out.

>> there's the before. now comes the transformation, a quick shave of his face and chest. giving some definition.

>> reporter: some slicked back hair.

>> looks like a different day few months from now.

>> reporter: change into slimmer shorts and flattering overheadlighting.

>> which brings shadows below my pecks and pops the muscles out more.

>> reporter: and the aftershot. look at the difference. same body photographed just five minutes apart.

>> reporter: that's incredible. you look like a different person.

>> exactly. in the fitness magazines and advertisements.

>> reporter: as for brooke , the tea company says her accusations are false that she consented and was paid for her photos. brooke says, that was only after she complained.

>> there you are. and, look, we found her photos in other diet ads still online today for products she says she never used.

>> have you called these companies and say, take that down now?

>> yes, i have tried to contact them and cannot get a response.

>> reporter: what is your message to women who are seeing this today and being duped?

>> don't buy it. if you see my image, it's false advertising .

>> the federal trade commission says weight loss products are the number one most reported fraud in america. we've reached out to the companies still using brooke 's photos but never heard back. bottom line here, when you see any of those ads promising fast and easy weight loss , experts say don't be so sure. no matter what the photos look like, guys.

>> all right, jeff, thank you so much. anybody shocked by that? not really. they have gotten better over the years. i swear they would be two different people.