Skepticism Healthy to Avoid Swine Flu Scams; BBB Warns of Fraudulent Health Items

November 02, 2009

Better Business Bureau warns consumers to be skeptical of Web sites and e-mails promoting swine flu prevention products. These scams are of particular concern as consumers may be putting their health at risk by taking medicine purchased from sites that don’t require a prescription for prescription-only drugs.

It's not surprising that the news coverage regarding the delay in delivery and current low inventory of H1N1 vaccine has inspired scammers to take advantage of the news surrounding this flu, wasting people’s money but, more importantly, they might keep them from getting medically sound treatment.

Federal agencies have come across contaminated, counterfeit and counterproductive pharmaceutical products, including Tamiflu, a prescription drug used to treat H1N1 patients. What was sold as the generic version of Tamiflu actually contained vitamin C and other substances that cannot treat nor prevent the H1N1 virus.

There are so many supposed flu-prevention and flu-remedy products available online that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) created a “Fraudulent Products List” on its Web site. In some cases, the product might be legitimate—such as an air purifier—but the FDA questions the marketing language and promised health benefits used to sell the product. Other products listed include lotions and gels, gloves and masks, herbal extracts, sprays, body washes, inhalers, flu kits, supplements, tea and even a shampoo.

BBB offers some tips to help protect you from swine flu scams:

  • Be wary of promotions using words such as “scientific breakthrough,” “miracle cure,” “secret ingredient,” or “ancient remedy.” 
  • Avoid Web sites that don’t provide the company’s name, physical address, phone number or other contact information. 
  • Don’t fall for personal testimonials or claims that a product is a quick, effective way to can treat or cure an illness. They may sound convincing, but are not substitutes for scientific proof. 
  • Follow health advice only from a trusted source, and don’t believe product claims to prevent or cure swine flu.

Related resources:
FDA Fraudulent 2009 H1N1 Influenza Products List
Hawaii State Department of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

For more trustworthy tips and resources to avoid online scams, go to