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Health scams

Hundreds and thousands of consumers globally invest in medicines or health products that promise to offer miracle cures for problems like baldness, weight loss, anti-ageing, memory loss/ dementia, arthritis, diabetes, etc. 

Unfortunately,  fake online pharmacies offer products that trick you into paying for items you may never get, or they offer cures that do not live up to the claims. Sellers offering alternative cures advertise online or send emails to target buyers while offering low-cost, non-prescription products. 

However, it has been found that most such products are untested, unauthorised, and a waste of money, and some contain dangerous chemicals which can cause adverse impacts on health. 

The fraudsters set up a fake pharmacy website that appears to be a legitimate retailer, and they offer health products or drugs at a very low price and claim you can order the medicines without requiring a doctor's prescription.

If you fall into the trap and order such products, you may not get what is promised; instead, you risk losing sensitive personal and financial data to fraudsters who can steal your identity to manipulate your bank account details and use it to raise finance or buy goods. 

Furthermore, such medicines have psychological and medical costs, which could be far more serious. Especially when you buy medicines online, you do not have a method to determine what they contain and how they will impact your health

Some medicines may trigger a reaction with the standard prescription medicines you take daily, and it can cause far more serious consequences or interfere with other medical processes. 

When you order medicines online, you cannot find the authentic components, where they were tested and how they might impact your physical health. Also, the cure provider is unaware of your health issues, specific symptoms and lifestyle, so even common cures may exaggerate your problems.  

The frauds pretend they are selling legitimate products, and the targets believe they are getting a comparatively valuable product or service when they buy the so-called miracle cures for skin-related disorders, arthritis, body pains, lifestyle conditions, weight loss and other diseases. 

Many crimes are committed by unregulated, illegal, unauthorised firms offering drugs through online pharmacies without a prescription. Again, you risk getting a wasteful product, but even when you get the same product, there is no guarantee of getting the authentic one. 

Sometimes, the product packaging is damaged, or the product may be completely different from what was promised; in such a situation, you are left out of pocket, and there is no chance of getting your money back. 

  • Furthermore, one should consult an expert health professional like a GP or a pharmacist before starting a new medicine or stop using a prescribed medicine. 

  • Additionally, there are many risks of seeking medical care without consulting a health professional personally. Some websites claim they offer new medicines and treatments for chronic health issues. In contrast, some claim they sell verified prescription medicines approved by an expert. 

  • Alternatively, some online medicines are duplicates, not the original authorised brand, and may not contain the same ingredients as in the popular medicines prescribed to you. Some medicines may cause certain health issues and have strange side effects.

  • Especially when you are suffering from a chronic health issue; in that case, you must take only the prescription medicines a doctor gives and not risk taking alternative cures considered safe or right for the specific condition. 

  • It would be best to stop the prescribed medicines specifically for your health condition and not take anything new without consulting your doctor, as it can lead to side effects, and your condition may worsen. 

Are You A Victim Of Medical Fraud?

How to find out if you are a victim- 

  1. You bought goods from online stores, thinking it was a legitimate alternative form of medicine. 

  2. You bought healthcare products you thought were the same as another popular brand but were offered a duplicate at a lower price.

  3. You bought medicines online without a prescription.

  4. You bought products assuming it was a miracle cure for acne or baldness.

What To Do When You Are A Victim Of Medical Fraud? 

  1. First, report to the Action fraud, and if there is any dispute over the nature of the product or the claimed benefits, you can check the website selling the product to file for a refund. 

  2. You must possess all the evidence related to the purchase and the messages you received from the sellers.

  3. If you have already paid, you can contact the credit card company or the bank about the fraud to revoke the payment and ensure you secure your finances.

  4. If you are consuming any such medicine, visit your GP to ensure you do not suffer any health issues caused by using alternative medicines. 

How To Avoid Fake Medicines?

  1. The MHRA is the regulatory authority responsible for ensuring the medicines sold online are registered with the MHRA and medicines approved by the MHRA have a logo of a white cross on a green and striped background. 

  2. People spend a lot on such products and treatments mainly to improve their health and fitness, but most such expense goes to companies making fake claims about the products and the benefits of such treatment; often, such online medicine providers cheat people out of their money and sometimes cause health disorders. 

  3. Some common medicines people buy online are for weight loss, reproductive disorders, anti-cholesterol, antidepressants and antipsychotics. In addition, some online stores offer dietary supplements that claim to prevent Alzheimer's disease, stop arthritis pain, cure diabetes or cure eye disorders forever. 

  4. You must find out if there are any published medical proofs or research papers supporting the claims of the medical facility provider, and also, you must have a clear idea of all the stages involved in procurement, payment terms, the full cost of the complete treatment and refunds if available. Such websites send unsolicited emails or links to your contact details to get a response. In addition, legitimate pharmacies will list all the contact details and the components used to prepare the medicines. 

  5. Do not pay by money transfer as it is not secure. 

  6. It would be best to be careful when using direct banking transactions to pay for goods and ensure the online payment gateways are secure; otherwise, avoid registering confidential bank details to such unauthorised websites. 

Be Alert (In Situations) -

  • Be alert when you see medical websites offering miracle cures or wonderful breakthroughs where the products are not tested or authorised by any legal organisation.

  • If the website claims to provide prescription-only medicines without a valid prescription. 

  • The website claims to provide one product that can cure many symptoms.

  • They claim to provide the results in 30 or 40 days.

  • You get a back guarantee, but nothing about how and when you will become eligible for a refund is mentioned. 

  • It would be best to get alert when you get such claims from websites that try to convince you using testimonials from satisfied customers where the anecdotal evidence shows there is no substitute for the scientific evidence behind genuine medicines.

  • While the offer has no risk money-back guarantee, they do not respond or immediately disappear when you try to get your money back. 

  • You are pushed to act quickly to get a special offer benefit. 

  • They claim endorsement from leading medical institutions or practitioners. But when you look closely, you find these are bogus claims, and the experts are not affiliated with the institution or criminal practice. 

  • They may use fake scientific-sounding terms or try to show certificates offered by some so-called prestigious institutions, which can be bogus. 

  • There is no evidence to support the claims of the website offering the product. 

How To Protect Yourself?

  1. To protect yourself, check the pharmacist registration status. 

  2. Try to find out the name and local address of where the pharmacy operates. 

  3. The medical experts on the website should ask you questions about your health and the medicines you were previously taking before you are asked to buy new ones to ensure if the client is suitable for the specified cure or not. Also, the one who is not a qualified medical practitioner or has not seen you cannot solely make a medical diagnosis based on internet-based information provided by you.  

How To Prevent A Loss?

  • You must do your research, like searching for the name of the treatment or product online and checking the reviews, complaints or scam terms and the brand name.

  • Ask your medical practitioner before taking any medicine. An expert can tell about the scientific evidence, the composition, the side effects and other associated measures. 

  • Companies claim they provide natural or plant-based products, but it does not mean it is safe to consume in excess or with other lifestyle medicines or supplements. 

  • Even the safest alternative cures can cause side effects if taken inaccurately. 

  • Even natural products prepared wrongly or taken in a certain quantity with other chemical compositions can cause serious side effects. Also, it may interfere with the proven treatment recommended by your practitioner. 

How To Report It? 

If you suffer fraud, raise concerns and report to Action Fraud.

Date Published: Sep 11, 2023

Types of fraud

A-Z of fraud

To help understand which fraud you've been affected by, we've categorised them into an alphabetical list.

What is fraud and cyber crime?

Cybercrimes can be of two types. First, it can be cyber dependent, where the fraudsters use online devices to convince the victim to accept their offers.

Advance fee fraud

If you are trying to get a loan for a house or a car, they ask to meet the provider to get the financing arrangement and pay the finder's fee in advance.

Corporate fraud

Corporate frauds can be complicated, committed either by the firm or an individual. Nevertheless, it mostly involves cheating where the employee or the firm.

Individual fraud

There are many types of individual frauds related to advance fees, investments, insurance brokers, bogus tradespeople, Ponzi schemes, pension liberation.

Online fraud

Hence the number of cases of online fraud is increasing each year, and most such cases include – account takeover, direct frauds, or scams related domain names.

Identity fraud and identity theft

The criminal uses the stolen identity of another person living or deceased to conduct unlawful activities like obtaining goods or services in another's name.

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