Industry Canada

Industry Canada
Competition Bureau Canada

Competition Bureau Canada

March 28, 2007 14:01 ET

Competition Bureau/Miracle Cures: A Prescription for Fraud

FRAUD: Recognize It. Report It. Stop It.

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - March 28, 2007) - Whether it is looking for a fast way to lose weight or a cure for a serious disease, consumers may be spending billions of dollars on unproven, fraudulently marketed health-related products, devices and treatments.

Fraudulent "cure-all" health products promise quick cures and easy solutions to a variety of problems, from obesity to diabetes and cancer. Any product that claims to be a miracle cure may be a fraud that could cheat you of time, money and most importantly, your health.

As part of Fraud Prevention Month, the Competition Bureau is advising consumers to be smart and be skeptical: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. To avoid becoming victims of health fraud, it's important to learn how to assess health claims and to seek the advice of a health professional.

Here are some tips for spotting scams:

Beware of ads that promise too much.

Think twice before buying a product that claims it can do it all.

Steer clear of a product that claims to be a "scientific breakthrough".

Genuine scientific discoveries make front-page news. If the first or only place you learn about a new treatment is through an advertisement on the Internet, be suspicious.

Keep your guard up when ads mention scientific evidence.

Ads that are long on technical jargon may be short on proof. The presence of a doctor in an ad is no guarantee the product works. Scam artists have been known to dress models to look like experts.

Don't be swayed by a questionable "success story" or so-called "patient testimonial".

Despite what the company claims, there's no guarantee that "John Doe of Hometown, Canada" has achieved the advertised results, or is even a real person.

A money-back guarantee is no proof that a product works.

Scam artists who offer a guarantee have been known to "take the money and run".

Consult your health care practitioner before trying any new treatment.

A doctor, nurse, or health care professional who knows your medical condition is your best source of information.

Combatting health fraud is a priority for the Competition Bureau. Bogus weight-loss schemes, cure-all scams or products claiming amazing health effects are some of the many areas of health fraud targeted by the Bureau.

In 2004, the Bureau launched Project FairWeb, an Internet surveillance and enforcement program aimed at combatting misleading and deceptive advertising for weight-loss products found on the Internet. To date, close to 600 questionable sites have been identified through the Bureau's Internet sweeps. Over 80% of the businesses that received notices have either removed the questionable performance claims or have expressed an intent to comply with the Competition Act.

In 2005, the Competition Bureau collaborated with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to launch FatFoe (http://wemarket4u.net/fatfoe/), an educational teaser site aimed at informing consumers of weight-loss scams on the Internet.

And last fall, the Bureau joined forces with counterpart agencies in the U.S. and Mexico to announce compliance and enforcement actions against companies promoting bogus diabetes products and services. In addition, the Bureau and Health Canada produced a pamphlet (http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/internet/index.cfm?itemID=2214&lg=e) on fraudulent diabetes cures.

For further information on the Bureau's activities in the area of health fraud, please visit: www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/healthfraud

The Competition Bureau chairs the Fraud Prevention Forum, which is a concerned group of private sector firms, consumer and volunteer groups, government agencies and law enforcement organizations committed to fighting fraud aimed at consumers and businesses. Through its partners, the Forum works to prevent Canadians from becoming victims of fraud by educating them on how to recognize it, report it and stop it. For more information on the Forum or Fraud Prevention Month, visit: www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/fraud

Contact Information

  • Media enquiries:
    Competition Bureau
    Maureen McGrath
    819-953-8982
    Cell.: 613-296-2187
    or
    General enquiries
    Competition Bureau
    Information Centre
    819-997-4282
    1-800-348-5358