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Don't be fooled by health fraud scams

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

You might see ads on TV, in magazines, in direct mail, in unsolicited emails or on the Internet that make a lot of promises about a new health product. Words like "scientific breakthrough" or "quick fix" or "new discovery" may fool some people into buying health products that sound great but are really fakes.

Some products may cause serious problems like pain, suffering or even death. Don't take the risk with your health or your money.

A health fraud scam is a way to fool people about health products that may not be all they're cracked up to be. They play on our desires for a quick fix and bombard us with deceptive marketing.

They offer to cure many common health issues, including weight loss, memory loss, sexual performance and joint pain. They also target people with serious conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, arthritis, Alzheimer's and many more.

The waste of money is bad enough. But relying on unproven products can lead to delays in getting the proper treatment and can cause serious injuries or death.

Some products may be billed as "all natural" but, in fact, have prescription drugs and other chemicals not listed on the label. The most common categories of these tainted products include weight loss, sexual performance and body building.

If a product claims to cure a wide range of unrelated diseases, it's probably a scam. No one product can treat or cure many different illnesses.

Some companies even recruit your friends, family or coworkers to spread the word about their products through word-of-mouth marketing. Personal testimonials by "real" people or "doctors" played by actors claiming amazing results can be a tip off that it's a scam.

Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it's probably a scam. Before taking an unproven or little-known treatment, talk to a doctor or health care professional -- especially when taking prescription drugs.

Don't fall for the "pay now and save" line. Never let someone pressure you into buying now.

Take time to get the facts about the product first. And if you're offered a free sample or a product sent to you, never give out personal information, including your Medicare ID number.

Learn more about identifying and avoiding health fraud scams at the Food and Drug Administration's Health Fraud Scams website, www.fda.gov/healthfraud. The site has videos and articles on how to avoid fraudulent schemes, and offers information about products that have been seized, recalled or are the subject of warnings from the agency.

Anyone can search the site to see if FDA has taken an action against a product or company. However, just because a product is not listed does not mean that it is legally marketed or safe to use.

Ann Ludlum
FCS Agent, Southwind District
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Southwind District -- Fort Scott office. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.