Scams tend to follow the news, especially when a health scare makes the headlines. Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington warns consumers that scam artists are preying on the public’s fear of Ebola. Fraudsters are making unsubstantiated claims that the disease can be cured or prevented by using products containing everything from silver to herbal oils to snake venom.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently warned consumers, “There are currently no FDA-approved vaccines or drugs to prevent or treat Ebola.”
Experimental vaccines may have been mentioned in the news, but they are not available to the public yet. “These investigational products are in the early stages of product development, have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness, and the supply is very limited,” the FDA said.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says it does have safety tips for travelers to West Africa, but the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. is extremely low. However, when fear is high, unproven and fraudulent products start to appear.
Consumers who have seen bogus products or false claims should report them to the FDA and may also inform BBB. The following tips from the FDA may also help consumers recognize fraudulent health products.
- One product does it all. Be suspicious of a product that claims to cure a wide range of diseases. One product could not be so effective against a long, varied list of conditions.
- Personal testimonials. Success stories are easily fabricated and are not a substitute for scientific evidence.
- Quick fixes. Few diseases can be treated rapidly, even with legitimate products.
- “All natural.” Numerous products claiming to be “all natural” in fact contain hidden, untested and potentially dangerous or lethal ingredients.
- “Miracle cure.” If a true cure for a serious disease were discovered, it would be widely reported through the media and prescribed by doctors—not buried in newspaper advertisements, infomercials and websites.
- Conspiracy theories. Claims about government conspiracies are used to distract consumers from the obvious, common-sense questions they should be asking about the so-called miracle cure.
BBB reminds consumers to always check with a doctor or health care professional before purchasing or using an unproven product or one with questionable claims.
Additionally, BBB urges consumers to use caution when donating to an Ebola-related cause. Click here for wise-giving tips.