In the old days there were snake-oil salesmen. Today you can find just about any product you want to make you feel, look or sleep better. The ads are everywhere: On TV, the internet, by mail and even by word of mouth from your neighbors in the grocery store.
One physician may have gone too far in offering the perfect cure. Dr. Christine Daniel of California was charged with wire fraud in October 2009 for selling a brown liquid infused with herbs to cancer patients.
Beware of Modern-Day Peddlers
Dr. Daniel had appeared on a religious network talk show in 2002, promoting her "regimen," a brown viscous liquid infused with herbs, as a cure for cancer. Dr. Daniel assured viewers that she had a cure rate of 60 percent. About 55 people paid her a total of $1 million for this "cure."
After several consumers and their families complained to authorities, Dr. Daniel was arrested and charged with several crimes, including federal wire fraud.
One man's wife had stopped her chemotherapy, at the urging of Dr. Daniel, and "treated" herself with the brown herbal liquid. She died four months after starting the regimen, after she had paid over $13,000 for the "liquid cure."
Beware of Miracle Claims
Beware of miracle claims that seem too good to be true. If they're touting their miracles only by mail, the internet or the phone, they can more easily escape detection. Consult with a legitimate, licensed physician or other health care provider in person if you're tempted to try a miracle cure.
One problem with ordering items online or through the mail is it may be difficult, if not impossible, to track down the source if problems occur. It may be next to impossible to verify the authenticity of the product too.
Some products - such as herbal concoctions - aren't approved by the FDA and labeling and disclosure requirements don't need to be followed. You don't have any way to be sure of the contents, and this could lead to problems if you have allergies or contraindications with other medications or conditions.
Report Questionable Conduct
Complaints from consumers led to the six-year investigation of Dr. Daniel's herbal medicine dealings. Had these consumers not come forward, federal and state authorities might not have even started investigating what turned out to be a massive scam and alleged violation of several federal laws.
If you suspect that someone is defrauding others by a scam cure, treatment or other means, report it to the authorities. Your local Attorney General's Office, consumer agency, or prosecutor's office can help you and may take a report from you and investigate further.
If You Suspect You've Been Scammed
If you or a family member suspect that you've been the victim of a scam involving proclaimed medical cures or miracle treatments, seek the advice of an attorney. If you've been injured or harmed from a financial or health standpoint you may have a good basis to file suit. The attorney can also help you know what agencies or authorities to contact, and can help investigate whether a class action suit has been filed by others in your situation.
It's important to keep all documents describing the details of the scam, including any advertisements, fliers, invoices, and correspondence. Keep a written record of any phone calls or e-mails. All lawsuits have time deadlines, so you should act promptly, especially to allow the attorney time to identify and locate the wrongdoer.
Questions for Your Attorney
- I bought an herbal cure and it hasn't helped me at all. May I sue the manufacturer for false advertising?
- My relative died from taking an herbal medicine that reacted with her other medications. Is it too late to file a lawsuit?
- Do state and local government officials have to review product claims?