Health fraud typically relies on several common elements. Here is a 10-point profile of quackery, compiled by Emory University history professor James Harvey Young, who has studied and written about the field for more than 30 years:

Exploitation of fear.

Promise of painless treatment and good results.

Claims of a miraculous scientific breakthrough.

Simpleton science: Disease has but one cause, and one treatment is all that is needed to fight it. Bad nutrition causes all disease; good nutrition cures it.

The Galileo ploy: Like Galileo, we cult gurus are misunderstood by blind scientists, but are destined to be heroes to future generations.

The conspiracy theory, also known as "The establishment is out to get us."

The moving target: Shifts in theory to adjust to circumstances. Laetrile went from drug to "vitamin," from cure to palliative to preventive, from low to high dosages, from working alone to never working alone, from one chemical formula to another, and so forth. "B15" ("pangamate") is any chemical or combination of chemicals the seller chooses to put in the bottle.

Reliance on anecdotes and testimonials. They don't separate fact from fiction or cause and effect from coincidence.

Distortion of the idea of "freedom." By distorting "freedom of informed choice" to "freedom of choice," snake-oil salesmen acquire freedom to defraud, and their victims can lose their money, their health and their lives.

Large sums of money are involved.