How To Spot a Health Fraud

Back in the days of the Wild, Wild West, conmen would travel from town to town peddling snake oil, a "miracle cure for all that ails ya" with little to no medicinal value, for a quick buck. While the carriages and colorful playacting are long gone, the practice of scamming people of their hard-earned dollars continues in fraudulent web, print and late-night television advertisements. Here are a few tips to help you make sure you aren't giving you paycheck away for a modern-day snake oil.

Beware the Everyman.  Frauds like to claim that their product cures a vast range of serious diseases, like AIDS, cancer, and diabetes. They play on the fact that people with these illnesses often get desperate enough to try anything, looking over the fact that the maladies these products "cure" are more often than not unrelated to each other. The sad truth is, there are no cures for many of these diseases, but thankfully, many therapies exist to help individuals manage them.

Avoid the Bright and Shiny.  It's Marketing 101-find a descriptor that attacks your target consumer's needs and milk it. Health frauds use words like "rapid", "natural", and "newfound" to lure people in. These claims, while attractive, have to be taken with a grain of salt. Self-proclaimed quick-fixes often use ambiguous terms such as "in a matter of days" and "in relatively no time at all" to spin their way out of legal action. Any "all-natural" substance strong enough to act as a drug will have the same probability of having negative as side effects as chemical medication. And if a miracle cure were just recently invented, wouldn't it be subject to a world-wide press release rather than some ad buried deep within your local supermarket tabloid?

Promises, Promises. "Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back." "Lose 50 Pounds in Just Three Weeks!" You've seen these promises all over the place. It's best to be prudent about such powerful guarantees - they're often too good to be true. Scammers are experts at avoiding being tracked so that your refund demands never get to them. And as for weight loss, experts agree that diet and exercise is the best way to go. It's just the illusion of pretty words playing on people's desires yet again. 

Doubt the So-called Experts. Take a look at that Dr. McKnowsalot endorsing Super-Ultra-Mega-Cure-For-Everything-You-Can-Think-Of. Then read about how the "polylipid disaccharide chemoclusters with DPZ-3" cause cancer cells to wither away. Now think to yourself, "Who is this guy? And just what are those poly-whosiwhatzits?" Medical frauds like to pile on scientific evidence in their advertisements, when more often than not it's just some guy in a costume spouting out meaningless jargon in a made-up testimonial. They're banking on the chance that consumers will be impressed by smart-looking people saying smart-sounding things.

The bottom line is that one has to be critical about these things. Consult a doctor, call a friend, even contact the FDA before trying out some newfangled medication. Look the facts up. You can't be careful enough, especially when it comes to your health.


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