Consumer Watch: Be wary of online medical scams

Consumer Watch: Be wary of online medical scams

March 19th, 2017 by Ellen Phillips in Business Around the Region

It seems like all I've featured the past few weeks has been the overabundance of scammers. As stated upon multiple occasions, new scams and their perpetrators rear their ugly heads up on an almost daily basis and health products are no exception.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a great resource for the lies scammers tell to rip off consumers, specifically with regard to health products such as diet pills, brain boosters and the like. By creating fake websites, using fake endorsements from real celebrities or public figures, and lying about the effectiveness of their products, these disreputables steal our money, our identities and, worse, potentially harm our health, perhaps permanently. A case in point: Shady companies or individuals build spoofed sites that look just like the ones we know and trust. Once completed, the highlighted "brain booster" or memory enhancer is sold, seemingly endorsed by such notables as Anderson Cooper and Stephen Hawking. By now, too many of us are hooked and link to the page where we order the product and use our credit or debit card info. (Please go back and read my warnings about debit card usage.)

Even without fear of swindles, no one should order anything medicinal online without advice from a physician. He or she (should) know the facts and claims about health products; if they don't, ask your pharmacist. Let's say a reader has already paid money to a scammer. You may be able to get your money returned with the following steps. (I've advised these practices before about other issues.)

Immediately call the credit card company or bank using the phone number on your monthly statement or the back of the credit card.

Alert the company to whatever fraudulent charges you've discovered.

Ask (plead!) for approval to get your funds returned.

Request a new card with a new number and also ask that the current number be immediately eliminated to prevent further scamming.

Tax Tip: Although only a teeny-weeny amount, the personal exemption amount did increase by $50 for 2016 to total $4,050. Taxpayers are allowed to claim one personal exemption for yourself and, if married, another for your spouse. Just remember, if someone else lists you as a dependent on his or her tax return, that personal exemption cannot be claimed for yourself.

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com

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