Eight Ways to Spot Online Health Scams

Lose weight fast! End baldness! Revive your sex drive! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Learn how to keep yourself safe from online health scams.

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The Internet is full of useful, sound health information. But it is also chock-a-block with scams that prey on your health concerns and your pocketbook. Unfortunately, when it comes to being well, there really are no shortcuts. So, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The good news is that if you know what to look for, it's easy to protect your family from deceptive marketing and online health rip-offs.

8 Scam-Spotting Secrets

  1. Be Wary of Celebrity Endorsements Famous people, especially well-known medical experts, are powerful sales generators, so unscrupulous business people often use celebrity likenesses to sell products.  
  2. Be Mindful of Miracle Cures If a pill could cure baldness or help us lose 30 pounds overnight, we would have all heard about it. Any company that makes extravagant claims is selling hype not hope. 
  3. Don't Buy into Bogus Blogs When individuals share their health stories online, they can help millions of others facing the same challenges. Advertisers know this and create fake blogs that appear to be personal stories, but instead are just marketing tools. Another common tactic is to emulate news sites with articles that extol the virtues of a particular product. Be suspicious if only one solution is being recommended by any site.
  4. Don't Trust Trial Periods If the product is as good as it says, there should be no rush to buy it. Any site asking to you "act now" or warning that there's a "limited quantity," is trying to get you to buy now and think later. Trial periods are often rigged so that it's almost impossible for you to get out of the agreement before they end, leaving you open to additional charges.
  5. Don't Trust "Testiphonials" Look for product endorsements supposedly written by real people. If you notice that all of the comments are grouped around the same date and there's no way for you to add comments, that's a giveaway that the creators of the site put them up.
  6. Read The Fine Print (No, really) Most of us accept terms and conditions online all the time without actual reading what we're agreeing to. But when you're buying a product online, it's critical, especially when the site creator has made them hard to read by putting them in tiny type or in a color that blends with the background. You may think you're only paying $2.95 for shipping and handling, but you're actually agreeing to sign up for a membership. If you don't cancel in time, you'll be charged much more than $2.95. Look for a clearly stated company name and address. If they have nothing to hide, it shouldn't be hidden.
  7. Look for the Seal of Approval Supplements that carry the seal of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) have been tested and verified for quality, purity, and potency.
  8. Do Your Own Research Check company and website names with the Better Business Bureau, which aggregates complaints from consumers and grades companies on a scale from A to F. Don't do business with a company that scores a C or lower.

What to Do If You Think You've Been Scammed

  1. Call Your Credit Card Company Explain what's happened and tell them you do not authorize any more charges from that company. If you're concerned that they may rack up big charges, cancel the card.
  2. File a Complaint If you fell for a scam, others will too. Help shutdown fraudulent companies by reporting them to the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, your state attorney general's office, or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.