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Scam or Legit: Tip-offs For Miracle Rip-offs

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J.Adderton has 27 years experience as a BSN, MSN .

7 Followers; 117 Articles; 33,900 Profile Views; 380 Posts

When it is "Too Good To be True"

Americans spend billions of dollars every year on “breakthrough” and “miracle” health products promising quick cures. With slick marketing and pressure sales, it is often difficult to recognize when a product is legit or a scam.  Read on to learn a few tip-offs to health rip-offs.

Scam or Legit: Tip-offs For Miracle Rip-offs
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I have an hour commute to work and listen to the same morning radio show during my drive.  The show hosts passionately advertise a miracle weight loss pill that also improves focus, digestion, athletic performance, sleep and joint pain.  The ingredients are time tested and there is always a “blow out” sale that is being extended for customer appreciation. The testimonials are impressive but my nursing background tells me “it’s just too good to be true”.  And, I really want it to be true.

What are Some Common Claims?

Health fraud or scams are products that claim to prevent, treat or cure disease and health conditions, but have not been proven safe or effective.  Fraudulent products may include pills, devices, food and even cosmetics. Common claims are often related to:

  • Weight loss
  • Sexual performance
  • Memory loss
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Arthritis 
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Anti-aging

“Too Good to Be True” is Nothing New

We have all seen slick ads for miracle treatments and cures.  Unfortunately, products that are too good to be true don’t include “Beware: Health Fraud” on their labels.  Health fraud and scams have been around for hundreds of years. Here are just a few examples of bizarre American health scams historically:

  • Banbar tonic was sold in the 1920’s as an alternative to insulin in treating diabetes.  Many people stopped taking insulin in favor of the tonic. This decision proved fatal for some since the tonic was ineffective for lowering blood sugar.
  • Harold Hoxley, a miner, sold useless tonics and creams that were guaranteed to cure cancer from the 20’s to 60’s.  He scammed customers out of 50 million dollars selling products through clinics and mail-order.
  • In 1958, thin cigarettes advertised miraculous weight loss results were possible by simply … smoking.  That’s right. The cigarette company advertised daily smoking for 8 weeks could result in a 20 lb weight loss.
  • Diet goggles were marketed in the 1970's and claimed to use “secret European color technology” to curb appetite and reduce hunger pangs.  Most of the glasses were eventually destroyed by the FDA.

Health scams of modern day have the benefit of deceptive high-tech marketing that reaches a large number of consumers.  Just think about it, scammers are able to promote through radio, newspapers, magazines, TV infomercials, retail stores, social media sites, pop up ads and spam.

Making Money on False Hope

Health frauds promise quick and easy cures for a variety of problems.  They often target older adults and most U.S victims are over 65. Scammers also target people who are overweight, have serious conditions like cancer, or have conditions without a cure.  These may include:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Arthritis

People buy these products in the hope of improving their health situation.  Instead, they are cheated out of money, their time and sometimes even their health.  Fraudulent products can have dangerous interactions with other prescribed medications.  With hope hinged on a miracle cure, some will delay getting a proper diagnosis or treatment from a health care professional.  Furthermore, health scams are usually expensive and rarely covered by health insurance.

It May Be A Rip-Off If…

The Food and Drug Administration offers tips to help consumers identify health rip-offs.  According to the FDA, it may be a rip-off if ...

One product does it all

In October 2012, a New York firm marketed dietary products claiming to treat or cure senile dementia, brain atrophy, atherosclerosis, kidney disease, gangrene, depression and the list goes on.  At the FDA’s request, federal marshals seized the fraudulent products.

Personal testimonies replace scientific evidence

When scientific evidence is lacking, it is easy to make-up glowing personal testimonies, such as “It cured my arthritis”, “My tumor was gone!”.

A quick fix is promised

Beware of quick treatments such as, “Lose 20 lbs in 2 weeks” or “Teeth will be 3 shades lighter after one use”.

It is “all natural”

Fraudsters use the term “all natural” to sell the safety of a product.  However, the FDA has found some products promoting “all natural” actually contain hidden and dangerously high doses of prescription drug ingredients or untested active artificial ingredients.

It is a miracle cure

If a miracle cure was actually found for a physical condition or disease, mass media would widely report the finding and health professionals would be prescribing the treatment.  Red flags wave with claims such as “scientific breakthrough,'' “secret ingredient” and “new discovery”.

Is a conspiracy theory

Claims about a secret plan and powerful groups are made by fraudsters to distract  you from common sense questions you may have about the proclaimed miracle cure. Claims such as “This cure is what pharmaceutical companies and the government don’t want you to know about” are always untrue and not backed by scientific evidence.

Fraudulent health products can be tempting and difficult to recognize. So, what is the best course of action when red flags are raised?  It is always a good idea to ask a healthcare provider about the product before spending valuable time and money.

Beware of Smarmy Sellers

Smarmy insincere sellers with pressure sales tactics is an obvious sign of fraud.  A person should check with their primary provider when considering travel to a clinic away from home.  While some clinics offer legitimate and effective treatments, others:

  • Prescribe untested, unapproved, ineffective and potentially dangerous cures
  • The healthcare provider and/or employees may not be licensed or have appropriate credentials.

It is important to always research with state and local health authorities to see if a facility is appropriate for any planned treatment or procedure away from home.

Have you, or someone you know, been pulled in by a product that is “too good to be true”?  Share your story.


Additional Resources

FDA Health Fraud Scams Consumer Information

Federal Trade Commission- Miracle Health Claims

J. Adderton MSN has over 20 years experience in clinical leadership, staff development, project management and nursing education. 

7 Followers; 117 Articles; 33,900 Profile Views; 380 Posts

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brownbook has 35 years experience.

1 Follower; 3,394 Posts; 46,104 Profile Views

Ugh, I don't I I'd why I said yes, but a fellow nurse invited me to a "party"  to buy, and become a sales person for, herbal vitamin supplements.

I did buy some, but sadly I didn't become 36 double D nor win the N.Y. marathon 😢. And thus did  not become a sales person.

The seriously sad part was she was married to a successful CPA, lived in a beautiful house. She extolled the tax write offs she claimed running a business from her home, saying they paid for her nice car, gas mileage, home/office remodel etc. 

Fellow nurses, CNAs, scrub techs, etc got burned as you had to buy then sell the product plus bring in more suckers to become sales people in order to make any money.

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J.Adderton has 27 years experience as a BSN, MSN.

7 Followers; 117 Articles; 380 Posts; 33,900 Profile Views

The claims are so enticing, I would LOVE to be able to run just 5 miles.  When the "greens" product became a frenzy, I saw many co-workers spend money.  But it was the CNA's and lower wage earners that I really hated to think were losing money.

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Here.I.Stand has 16 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in SICU, trauma, neuro.

1 Follower; 4,988 Posts; 43,028 Profile Views

21 hours ago, brownbook said:

Ugh, I don't I I'd why I said yes, but a fellow nurse invited me to a "party"  to buy, and become a sales person for, herbal vitamin supplements.

I did buy some, but sadly I didn't become 36 double D nor win the N.Y. marathon 😢. And thus did  not become a sales person.

The seriously sad part was she was married to a successful CPA, lived in a beautiful house. She extolled the tax write offs she claimed running a business from her home, saying they paid for her nice car, gas mileage, home/office remodel etc. 

Fellow nurses, CNAs, scrub techs, etc got burned as you had to buy then sell the product plus bring in more suckers to become sales people in order to make any money.

I hate MLMs in general... very few people actually make money with them.   The health claims in particular make me so angry, because they play on people’s vulnerabilities.  A few years ago a lady at church was handing out these tiny little half-dram bottles of essential oils and inviting us to the party she was hosting.  I like an anti-tension oil as well as the next person.... but the accompanying A-to-Z list o’ conditions that could be helped with oils....... uff da.  It would have been hilarious if it wasn’t so darn scary.  

On the list was HIV and Ebola.  I’m not kidding.  I kick myself for not saving that card and reporting the company for illegal health claims.  

ETA: it’s especially scary and maddening to hear nurses get sucked into the health claims, bc the public TRUSTS US.  

I’m glad this nurse’s downline stopped with you... hopefully the others have come to their senses as well

Edited by Here.I.Stand

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