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Health Fraud

One of the oldest frauds preys upon the natural human desire for good health.

It’s bad enough when victims of health fraud waste their time and money.  But the stakes may be much higher when someone is ill.  People who are desperate may abandon established treatments in favor of unproven and expensive “cures” that only make matters worse, including causing injury or death.

The FDA defines health fraud as the deceptive promotion, advertising, distribution, or sale of a product represented as being effective to prevent, diagnose, treat, cure or lessen an illness or condition, or provide another beneficial effect on health, but that has not been scientifically proven safe and effective for such purposes.

Tips to avoid health fraud:

  • Seek the advice of a doctor or health care professional.   Consult with legitimate health care professionals before considering an unusual health product or treatment.
  • Be suspicious of dramatic claims. “Scientific breakthrough,” “secret,” “miraculous,” “quick & easy,” “ancient” -- such claims are often used for fraud.  Real medical breakthroughs won’t be announced for the first time in paid ads.  And be skeptical of claims that one product cures a wide range of diseases.
  • Few diseases or conditions can be treated with “quick fixes,” even with legitimate products.  Beware of such claims.
  • Some products promoted as “all natural” may actually contain hidden and dangerously high doses of prescription drug ingredients or even untested active artificial ingredients.  And some plants found in nature can be dangerous or even fatal when consumed.
  • Beware of conspiracy theories.  Many scammers claim to be victims of a conspiracy to suppress their “miracle” cures.  Effective remedies are unlikely to be suppressed.
  • Don’t put much weight on testimonials, even from celebrities.  Many worthless products have been promoted through glowing – but misleading -- testimonials.
  • Be leery of claims of “risk-free” money-back guarantees.  What may sound like confidence in the product might really be a scheme for getting payments that are never refunded.
  • Don’t take chances with your health.  Don’t abandon proven treatments in favor of untested approaches.




888-777-4590 (outside of the Des Moines metro area)




Office of the Attorney General of Iowa
Consumer Protection Division
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0106


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