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BBB Tip of the Week: Fake Ebola cure online

Sun., Aug. 31, 2014, midnight

Products claiming to prevent or treat the Ebola virus have cropped up online. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, no FDA-approved vaccines or drugs to prevent or treat Ebola currently exist.

Scammers are preying on consumers’ fears of a U.S. outbreak and the news of the two U.S. Ebola patients who recovered after receiving the experimental medicine, Zmapp. This experimental medicine has only had a handful of doses manufactured. Any online claims of similar medicines are fraudulent.

The FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stressed that Ebola does not pose a significant threat to the U.S. public because it is transmitted by direct contact with bodily fluids of an infected person or needles and other similar items infected with the virus. The FDA assures that “Ebola is not a water-borne or food-borne illness and is not transmitted through the air.”

The BBB shares the following red flags for products with bogus health claims:

• Cure-all product claims. Products that cure or prevent a long list of varying health conditions or diseases don’t exist.

• Individual success stories. The testimonial is an effective marketing tool but not the same as scientific evidence. A dose of cynicism is required when the main proof for a product’s claims are personal success stories.

• Quick-fix claims. Diseases and health issues are rarely treated quickly, even with legitimate products.

• All-natural claims. Because we tend to equate the word “natural” with the word “good”, marketers use this to sell products with untested or even harmful ingredients found in nature. • Miracle cure claims. Actual cures would be widely shared and prescribed by physicians. Fake miracle cures are limited to advertisements in print, on TV and online, where the consumer will “discover” them.

• Conspiracy theory claims. These claims are a distraction and used to divert the consumer from asking questions about the usefulness of products.

Before purchasing an unproven product that makes health claims, consult with a health care professional.

If you see fraudulent health products or false health claims online, report them to the FDA at 1.usa.gov/1mS3T3P and to the BBB at www.bbb.org/consumer -complaints/.

For more tips you can trust, visit the BBB at www.bbb.org or call (509) 455-4200.

By Erin T. Dodge, BBB Editor


 

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