We’ve all done it. Maybe you have a new ache or pain, a cough that won’t go away, or a family member who gets a new medical diagnosis, so you go online to find out more. Consulting “Dr. Google” has become human nature. In fact, according to Pew Research Center, 72% of internet users search for health-related information online. And while it is easy, and common, it does not always deliver the best results. Looking up health symptoms on the web can lead to many unwanted side effects including increased anxiety, wasted money, unneeded trips to the ER, and a willingness to try unproven treatments and “cures.”

You’ve probably come across advertisements for new drugs, vitamins, diet aids, miracle cures and treatments on TV, Facebook, news sites and social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest, or even in your own email inbox or phone. Most of these ads are what the FDA calls health fraud scams — the selling of drugs, food, devices, or cosmetics that have not been proven to work.

Because it can be hard to tell what is real and what is a scam, we’ve put together some information to help you evaluate for yourself.

Know the warning signs

Health care fraudsters use similar tricks and techniques to convince people. Once you learn to spot them, it can be easier to identify a scam. Watch for these red flags:

  • One product promises to do it all.
    A product or treatment claims to cure a wide range of unrelated diseases, particularly serious ones like cancer or diabetes.
  • A treatment claims to be very old.
    A product uses terms like “ancient remedy” or “traditional,” or provides a “natural cure” to suggest its longevity proves it is safe or effective.
  • A treatment claims to be very new.
    A product or treatment claims it is a “new discovery,” “innovation” or “scientific breakthrough.” The ad might also hint at a conspiracy to prevent people from getting these miracle products.
  • Satisfaction is guaranteed.
    The product comes with a “no risk” money-back guarantee, no questions asked.

Follow these tips

  1. Ask yourself “Does it sound too good to be true?” If it does, it probably is.
  2. Don’t open attachments or click links in emails or texts about medical products or treatments. They could unleash malware on your device.
  3. Talk to your family and friends. Legitimate medical professionals will not discourage
    you from discussing treatments with others.
  4. Check the FDA.gov website’s fraud product database. Just type in the name of the product and see if it is a scam. Visit www.fda.gov/consumers/health-fraud-scams/health-fraud-product-database.
  5. Talk to your doctor or health professional or call the Trust’s 24-hour Nurse Line.

By taking the time to ask a few questions, you can avoid wasting your time and hard-earned money, and risking your health on harmful treatments.

Source: FDA.gov