Diabetes is a disease that can cause you to have feelings of desperation and hopelessness. Unfortunately, there are people who would like to profit and take advantage of those feelings. Here is a list of some common diabetes scams, how to be smart, and what to look for to protect your pocket book as well as your health. If you know someone with diabetes who is not internet savvy, print out a copy of this information to help them know what to look out for.
The internet is a great resource for research, community, and information about living with diabetes. However, it can also open the door for people who would like to take advantage of you. Scams can be found on websites, through email, on social networks, and forums. The internet can also make it possible for others to reach you offline through postal mail and phone solicitations.
We all hope to find a cure or perhaps discover a hidden miracle treatment. Some herbal or alternative remedies might actually help, but they are often not well-researched. Without that research there is not enough knowledge to make good dosage recommendations. We all have different circumstances, physiology, and lifestyles. What might work for one person might not work for you. Furthermore, without good study there is not a lot of knowledge about any possible harmful effects, both immediate and long-term. People who are trying to scam you might rely heavily on personal stories, mention studies that have not appeared in reputable publications, or try to blind you with slick salesmanship.
What Scammers Are After
Most scammers are after your money, social security number, Medicare number, financial information or a combination of these things. Also keep in mind that if they obtain your email address, you open up another way people with dishonest intentions can try to contact you.
Red Flags for Diabetes Scams
- How the product is presented. Be careful if the website or advertisement shares characteristics with an old-time snake oil salesman or a modern-day infomercial. Look for websites that make outrageous claims, have miraculous testimonials, lack hard facts, and have paths that lead to aggressive ordering prompts or ask you to enter personal information.
- No reputable, verifiable research. If there are references to studies or research, do they give detailed information? Can you find more information and verify the claims made? Make sure the information comes from peer-reviewed journals or respected organizations.
- Prompts to act now. You may be encouraged to act now or the product or service will increase in price, and you will miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime deal. There may also be scare tactics employed that make you believe that your health will be worsened or doomed if you do not purchase immediately.
- Money is asked for up front before you get any real information. The site or advertisement may be all claims and no real solid information. Perhaps the product and how it works is shrouded in mystery. If you are asked to pay in order to receive more information, that is a good clue that it is a scam.
- Too much interest in your personal information. If you are asked to give your personal information, especially before ordering or in exchange for special deals or freebies, be suspicious. Newsletters or informative emails may be offered, but these may allow scammers to get your email address and sell it to someone who wants contact information for people with diabetes.
- The product is too good to be true. If the product is so good, why hasn't news spread like wildfire? If the product really works as claimed, they should be getting a lot of free word-of-mouth advertising. Do some research on the product outside of their website. While doing this, keep in mind that it is quite common for monetary incentives to be offered to others to sell the product or service. If you research and find testimonials, look to see if they are offering links to buy the product. Look for a link to an "affiliate program" on the product website. Often this can be found in the small links on the bottom of the page.
- Mistrust is sold. Breeding mistrust of doctors and the government is a good way to feign credibility when your product or service isn't well known or lacks good research. Most of us already have a healthy dose or mistrust and cynicism and we don't need someone else trying to use that to their advantage.
Common Diabetes Scams
- Bottled or packaged diabetes cures. These can come in the form of pills, vitamin or mineral supplements, food products, and drinks.
- Natural or alternative treatments. These can include cinnamon pills and herbal teas to magnets. There are fantastic alternative and integrative medicine doctors today, but be smart and do your research especially if you are buying an unproven product or service from a website or you don't know anyone reputable who can vouch for them.
- Cures in a book. Remember there is not currently a cure for diabetes. While many of these books offer great information that could help with your diabetes management, do not let the claim of a cure persuade you to spend money you cannot afford to spend. The author might offer products or services to enhance their program, check to see if they are asking for more than the purchase price of the book.
- Phone scams. Beware if someone calls you offering free or very low-cost supplies or medications. They may say they are from a reputable diabetes company or government entity, but how can you know for sure? It is not hard for someone to lie and misrepresent themselves when the goal is to con you. If you do actually receive any supplies, they may be very low quality or counterfeit. In addition, you may later be faced with the headache of receiving supplies you did not order and erroneous billing. Hang up if they ask for Medicare numbers in exchange for free supplies or other products. In fact, the federal government recommends hanging up on these calls altogether.
- Email scams: Email scams are getting more convincing and clever. The emails can look professional and appear to come from reputable entities or websites you deal with regularly. They might warn that you need to fix something on your account immediately or your service will be terminated. The email might appear to reference an order, delivery, or bank transaction carried out in your name. It could also look like a personal email from someone wanting to share a miracle cure or product. The email will likely provide a link for you to get more information, fix the problem, or log into your account. The link may lead to a fake login page therefore exposing your login information. Clicking a link in the email might also lead to a virus, malware, or spyware being installed on your computer. Don't be fooled into clicking a link if the web address is one you trust. There are ways to hide a fraudulent web address. If you are worried about your account, open up your browser and access the site as you usually do.
Quick Takeaway Tips
- Protect your social security number, Medicare number, and financial information. Your social security number could be used for identity theft and your Medicare number for someone else to get medical care under your name.
- Be wary of providing your email address to a website that is not well known and respected.
- Check your Medicare billings and notices. Look for items you did not order and for multiple billings.
- Send back or refuse delivery of items you did not order. Take note of the date and the sender's name and notify your health care provider and the Office of the Inspector General if you suspect a scam.
If you Suspect Fraud
Go to the Office of Inspector General website to report fraud. You can report online, by phone, fax, TTY, and mail.