"Treatments" Can Be Real-World Deceptions
Washington, D.C. - Unscrupulous marketers are using cyberspace to peddle
"miracle" treatments and cures to vulnerable consumers. Many of their ads, which
feature exotic potions and pills, strange magnetic or electrical devices, special curative
diets, or "newly discovered" therapies, contain questionable claims about the
effectiveness and safety of these products or services. So says the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC), which found the misleading or deceptive ads while surfing the Internet.
Misleading offers for products and treatments for heart disease, cancer, AIDS,
diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and other medical conditions could be costly in
several ways, according to the FTC. Consumers could lose their money and increase their
health risk, especially if they delay or forego proper medical treatment. There also is
the risk that these products may have dangerous interactions with other medicines. The FTC
advises consumers to consult their doctor, pharmacist, other healthcare professionals, or
public health organizations before purchasing any product or treatment with a claim that
sounds too good to be true.
The FTC cautions consumers who have a serious or chronic illness to be wary as they
consider ads for products or services to treat their conditions - whether the pitches are
made on the Internet, television or radio, or in newspapers, magazines, or brochures - and
to ask themselves one very important question: If a medical breakthrough really has
occurred in the treatment of a serious illness, would the news be announced first in an
How can you tell if an advertising claim for a "miracle" health-related
product is likely to be phony, exaggerated, or unproven? The FTC says these tip-offs
generally signal a rip-off:
- Claims that a product is a "scientific breakthrough," "miraculous
cure," "secret ingredient" or "ancient remedy."
- Claims that the product is an effective cure for a wide range of ailments. No product
can cure multiple conditions or diseases.
- Claims that use impressive-sounding medical terms. They're often covering up a lack of
- Undocumented case histories of people who've had amazing results. It's too easy to make
them up. And even if true, they can't be generalized to the entire population. Anecdotes
are not a substitute for valid science.
- Claims that the product is available from only one source, and payment is required in
- Claims of a "money-back" guarantee.
- Claims that the medical profession or research scientists are conspiring to suppress the
advertised product to keep their market share.
- Websites that fail to list the company's name, physical address, phone number or other
The FTC works for the consumer to
prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the
marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and
avoid them. To file a
complaint or to get free information
on consumer issues, visit
call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The
FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related
Consumer Sentinel, a
secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law
enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
FOR THE CONSUMER