KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — More people are continuing to exercise at home instead of going to a fitness center, especially as COVID-19 cases surge.
According to Google Trends, searches for "workout equipment" skyrocketed around the height of the pandemic, in March and April of 2020. The new year is also a time when interest in buying exercise equipment peaks.
Unfortunately, some online scammers have capitalized on those wanting to expand their home gyms.
Tony Binkley with the Better Business Bureau of Greater East Tennessee said if you're purchasing online, make sure to go through a reputable company.
"You see commercials on TV and things like that, but there's all kinds of equipment out there and you may not know the company, so make sure that they have a return policy."
He also recommends making sure there are several ways to contact the company, including a phone number and address.
"Do you have to deal only through email? If you do, I wouldn't recommend buying from them," Binkley said.
One more thing to look out for is the website URL. It's a legitimate website if it begins with "HTTPS."
It's also best to use a credit card rather than a debit card when buying anything online, especially for big purchases. Unlike a debit card, a credit card is not linked directly to a checking account.
Thankfully, Binkley said he hasn't seen many online fitness-related scams in East Tennessee, but it's always a good idea to be vigilant.
"It can happen to anybody, and you've just got to be careful," he added.
Binkley also has tips for those who would rather visit a commercial gym.
Before signing a membership contract, make sure to research your options.
A lot of times, reputable gyms offer limited free trials to potential clients. Binkley recommends taking advantage of those to find the best fit for you.
Make sure to read the membership contract carefully and don't give in to high-pressure sales tactics to join.