How to avoid health care fraud

False product claims
False product claims © Africa Studio/

The Federal Trade Commission says millions fall victim each year to false miracle cures. Especially vulnerable are victims of debilitating and potentially deadly illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV and AIDS.

The FTC website says scammers take advantage of people with a grim diagnosis such as cancer and "promote unproven -- and potentially dangerous -- substances like black salve, essiac tea, or laetrile with claims that the products are both 'natural' and effective." But, say physicians and other experts, simply because something is advertised as "natural" doesn't mean it works. And while a patient is experimenting with bogus treatments, he or she can squander the opportunity to receive treatments that might truly be effective. Peel says consumers should beware of products with personal testimonies that prove nothing. Don't trust a product just because of favorable reviews on the Internet, she warns.

How to spot it: If product claims make it sound like it's too good to be true, then it is. Something that works miracles would make headlines, so when "Mary in Indiana" says that a special tea cured her cancer, it's a worthless testimonial.

What to do: Guard against phony products by talking to your trusted physician or physical therapist.


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