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Surf the web these days and you’ll find a world of miracle cures and wonder pills for a whole range of health conditions.
Thousands of websites tempt buyers by offering an easy answer to a health issue or cosmetic concern. And that temptation only grows stronger when the website is filled with glowing testimonials from satisfied customers, and even endorsements from doctors. It’s enough to have many of us reaching for our credit cards.
Trouble is, the majority of these products – and the websites that advertise them – are not what they seem. The only thing they will relieve you of is the money in your wallet. And when it comes to your health, they may even do you harm.
Would you be fooled?
The Office of Fair Trading has teamed up with Sense About Science, a charitable trust, to warn of the dangers of online miracle cures.
As part of Scams Awareness Month, they have launched two spoof websites that show how easy it can be to fall victim to a scam (see Useful links).
The first website advertises Fatfoe pads, a product that “sucks out excess fat and cellulite while you sleep”, allowing users to lose up to 20 pounds a week without changing their diet.
The second website promotes Glucobate, an “all-natural diabetes breakthrough” that uses 'elixir of muskmelon' to regulate blood sugar.
But readers who attempt to order from these websites will be taken to a page explaining that the products are fake, and warning them of the danger of similar online scams.
If it sounds too good to be true...
Every year an estimated 200,000 UK consumers fall for scam miracle cures, for issues such as weight loss, baldness and impotence. The Office of Fair Trading is constantly fighting the fraudsters: last year it acted against the makers of a “negative calorie weight loss chocolate” called Slim Choc, who claimed, “the more you eat the more you lose!”. When challenged, the makers of Slim Choc could provide no evidence that their product helped weight loss.
“The rise of the internet has led to an increase in these kinds of scams,” says Alice Tuff from Sense About Science. “These products waste your money. They also carry an emotional cost: people pin great hope on them only to be disappointed.”
But the dangers don’t end there. When it comes to pills bought online, are you sure that what you’re getting is safe?
“How do you know what is really in this so-called ‘cure’?” says Tuff. “You could end up doing yourself harm by taking an untested, unsafe product. Your health condition could worsen if you stop taking your prescribed medicine so that you can take this new ‘cure’ instead.”
With thousands of scam health products for sale online, the best advice is to proceed with caution when considering any new medicine or health product.
Be aware that scam websites often:
For advice about any medicine or health product, talk to your GP or local pharmacist before you buy. They will be able to tell you whether any health product is known to be safe and proven to work.
If you’re managing a health condition, never stop taking a prescribed medicine or start taking a new medicine without speaking to your GP or pharmacist first.
You can also find medicines information in the Health A-Z section of this website, and in the NHS Choices Medicines Guides (see Useful llinks).
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