Canadian Competition Bureau Dissects Online Cancer Scam

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
June 13, 2008

The Canadian Competition Bureau has launched Project False Hope to warn consumers against online cancer scams. Its first offering is an analysis of claims made for a fictitious “Natural Herbal Formula.” When visitors scroll their mouse over the text of the mock ad, pop-up bubbles comment on the tactics that scammers use to hook people. These include:

  • Scammers try to create a false sense of urgency. They want you to buy now so you don’t have time to do proper research—and find out it’s a scam.
  • Scammers want you to think that they’ve found a miracle cure or treatment and they’re the only ones who have it.
  • Scammers want to create a sense of desperation so that you believe theirs is the only cure or treatment out there that will work.
  • Scammers will often try to drive a wedge between you and the treatments prescribed by your doctor or medical practitioner, and then present you with a “newly discovered scientific breakthrough” or a “natural remedy used for hundreds of years”.
  • Scammers will tell you that they have the “real” or “true formula” and that others are fake or substandard.
  • Scammers often use false scientific tests to give the impression of credibility. Don’t be fooled by sites that are long on technical language; they may be short on proof.
  • Scammers have been known to dress up models to look like experts, and create “incredible patient testimonials” from people that may not even exist. There is no way to tell if the scammers’ cure or treatment will work as promised.
  • Scammers will often use technical language as well as pictures of doctors to get you to believe their product really works and tell you about the incredible “success stories” they’ve seen.
  • Scammers will often hide their nasty surprises within the text, which can often be the exact opposite of what their cure or treatment promised to do.
  • Scammers want you to believe that they are so confident that their cure or treatment will work for you, that they’ll offer a money-back guarantee. The catch is that a guarantee is no proof that their product works, and scammers have been known to take the money and run.

This article was posted on June 13, 2008.