There is never a good time to be sick, but I think most of us with chronic illnesses are thankful to be living in the twenty-first century, when medical science is at its most advanced, integrative therapies are on the rise, and the internet gives us instant access to a range of educational resources and communal support. Unfortunately, there is one major downside to all of this. For every legitimate natural or integrative therapy there is a slick salesman selling snake oil as the next cure-all. And no matter how intelligent or scientifically minded, desperate sick people are the most vulnerable.
10 Telltale Signs of a Health Fraud Scam
1. Promises a quick and easy cure
Healing from a complex chronic illness is a lengthy process, especially if you’ve been sick for a long time, and the unpleasant truth is that there are still many who will only experience partial healing or no healing at all. We should never give up hope, but we should also be realistic when searching for answers.
2. Claims that the product can help everything from cancer to relationship problems
Of course there are lifestyle changes you can make that will have many positive effects. A healthy diet, exercise or physical therapy, meditation and other foundational practices will help you cope with chronic illness and subsequently improve your health and relationships. That’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about are patented products or programs that make sweeping promises that do all but violate FDA label claim laws.
3. Promises a no-risk money-back guarantee
It can be tempting to try something with a money-back guarantee. After all, if it doesn’t work there’s no loss, right? The problem is that many companies that offer a money-back guarantee are flat out lying. A money-back guarantee is never a guarantee that you’ll actually get your money back, not to mention the risk of using a product that may be harmful.
4. Offers a free or trial version of the product and promises full benefits if you buy a more expensive version
This is a classic psychological hook. While trying out a free product may not hurt your wallet, it could very well hurt your body. Even if the product is harmless, companies often use this trick to convince desperate patients that if the free trial didn’t help them, it’s because they need the full version of the product to experience noticeable benefits. They may even rely on the placebo effect to hoodwink patients into thinking the product is working when it’s really just a sugar pill.
5. Uses multi-level marketing to suck people in and advertise the product
Not every multi-level marketing company sells bad products, but it is a common structure of scam companies and should be seen as a potential red flag.
6. Relies heavily on personal testimonials
Oftentimes companies that lack scientific evidence to back up their claims resort to anecdotal evidence instead. These testimonials may be completely fake, they may represent a minority of people who have benefited significantly from the product, or they may be the legitimate experiences of people who have experienced the placebo effect.People with a #chronicillness are prone to falling prey to a health fraud scam. Avoid becoming a victim: Click To Tweet
7. Is endorsed by doctors or health care practitioners with questionable credentials
The endorsement of a medical or naturopathic doctor or PhD may seem to legitimize a product, but it’s important to examine those credentials more closely. PhDs can come from diploma mills or unaccredited online institutions. Likewise, there are plenty of fraudulent medical degrees out there.
8. Offers questionable scientific evidence to back up claims
It can be tricky to spot bogus science if you don’t know much about science to begin with. Often, companies base their claims on an accepted scientific theory, thereby validating their product by association, even if the two really don’t have anything to do with each other. Watch out for companies that site “studies” which may be legitimate but have nothing to do with their product (only the “theory” behind it) or may have been performed by the company itself or a biased institution and are therefore unreliable.
9. Preys on people of faith by claiming that the product is divinely inspired
I’ve seen this one time and time again. Some self-declared guru with a new energetic healing method or miracle pill will claim that God gave him the secret to perfect health and now he’s morally obligated to share it with the world for the low price of $99.95. Can I get an amen?
10. Claims to be different from any other healing modality
If a company claims that their product is totally different (read: infinitely better) than any other treatment, supplement, or therapy out there, it could be the real deal…or it could be a total crock.
Not all companies that offer a free trial or list a lot of personal testimonials are perpetrating a scam, but if a product or company checks a lot of the boxes outlined above, it’s a safe bet to avoid it.Anatomy of a #Health Fraud #Scam Click To Tweet
How to Avoid Falling Prey to a Health Fraud Scam
1. Check for any reports that the product is a scam.
You can check the Health Fraud Scam section of the FDA’s website to see if any reports have been filed about the company. A quick Google search of the product or company name and “scam” may also be useful. If the search returns a whole bunch of websites claiming that the product is definitely NOT a scam, then it’s probably a scam. Counterintuitive, I know, but many fraudulent health companies put a huge amount of effort into creating “third party” reviews to reassure skeptical consumers.
2. Check the credentials of the creator and/or health care professionals endorsing it.
Make sure that any medical or other graduate degrees are legit and not from a diploma mill. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to tell if a naturopathic doctor’s degree is legit. There are only seven accredited naturopathic medical schools in North America, so if the doctor in question reveals where his degree came from you can check it against the AANMC’s list. Other types of degrees may take a little more digging.
3. Research any scientific claims made by the company.
The first step in researching a claim is to research the theory behind it. If there is nothing in the scientific literature, then you have to decide for yourself whether it seems logical. The second step is to look for studies on the product itself. It’s also a good idea to ask for quality reports and make sure that they were done by an unbiased third party. Always remember that “scientific” studies can be skewed, so use discretion. PubMed is a great place to start.
4. Ask a trusted doctor.
Ask your LLMD if they’ve heard of the product you want to try and if they think it’s safe.
5. Use common sense.
Misinformation can come from virtually any source: the internet, television, friends and family, natural health care practitioners, and even your doctor and other highly educated health experts. The fact is that no one has a monopoly on science. Do your research, seek out the advice of professionals you trust, and watch out for the telltale signs outlined above.