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How to stay up-to-date on medical scams, quackery, deadly treatments


A “cure” that seems too good to be true. A doctor who profits from ineffective or dangerous “treatments.” A product that doesn’t do what it says. All three are health-care frauds — and they can cheat you out of more than money.

But how can you arm yourself against these hucksters and scams? The Food and Drug Administrations’s Health Fraud Scams website is a good start.

The site offers information on all sorts of medical scams, from unlawful sales of medication to new products and common consumer boondoggles. It collects news bites and news releases from the agency, including statements on the FDA’s newest product warning letters and updates on criminal investigations.

Conditions such as erectile dysfunction, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and obesity are represented among the FDA’s warnings. A variety of videos can help you boost your fraud-spotting muscle.

The FDA has begun warning about unproven Alzheimer’s products — illegal sales of dietary supplements and other products that promise to cure the disease. (There is no cure yet for Alzheimer’s.)

Every time someone falls for a health scam, they put their bodies at risk. The wrong treatments waste time. Misplaced trust can stand between a patient and a legitimate diagnosis. And fraudulent “cures” can hurt more than they heal, even causing permanent injury or death.

Buzzwords such as “quick fix,” “no-risk,” “scientific breakthrough” and “like magic” are just the tip of the scam iceberg. Since fraudsters trade in hope, wishful thinking can make people more likely to latch on to a product with promises that are overblown — or nonexistent.

The FDA resources, including visuals of fraudulent products and information on the agency’s advisory actions, can help inoculate you against these false promises.

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