Health scams are about products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure disease or other health issues, but are fake or ineffective or dangerous or just non-existent.
Scammers typically target serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s but also minor problems such as tinnitus, headaches, poor eyesight etc.
The scammers may claim a new scientific breakthrough or a miracle ingredient or an folksy remedy or ancient knowledge or a newly discovered herb etc. and that these alternatives are safer / cheaper / better than anything your doctor or pharmacist can prescribe.
Health scams can cause serious injury or even death. Some scam products may be produced unhygienically or even contain dangerous chemicals.
Why would people believe the claims of these scams?
- The belief in conspiracies can lead people to accept unproven ideas
- Medicine can be very expensive and that makes alternatives welcome
- Desperation – sometimes anything that offers a chance is worth taking
- Belief in natural remedies, ancient civilisations, hidden knowledge etc.
- Basic stupidity/gullibility
Some people are taken in easily but most recognise the danger signs in the scam messages but choose to continue reading or to click in hope that the desired outcome outweighs the risk.
An experiment on how easy it is for people to spot scams found that:-
- Most people see danger signals in the scammer’s messages
- There are no significant differences when looking at age, gender or other demographics – the people who could be tricked are those who saw the benefits as outweighing the risks.
- Approximately 60% of participants identified the adverts as likely a scam, but they also still viewed the opportunity as potentially beneficial.
- Some will take the risk of replying or clicking even when believing it to be a scam.
- One product is claimed to cure a wide range of diseases.
- Personal testimonials of how effective the product is. These are easy to make up and should be considered as meaningless.
- Quick fixes. Major health problems cannot be instantly cured and many such as diabetes type II are partly caused by lifestyle so no magic ingredient can solve them on its own.
If you have fallen for any of these tricks, do let me know, by email.