Dangerous Spam

Last week I did a grouchy post on Tuesday and a more cheerful one on Thursday. That seemed to work out pretty well, so I’m going to do the same thing again this week. If you don’t want to listen to me bitch, skip today’s post and come back next time.

Still here? OK, let’s go. This is a post about blog spam, but unlike the first ones, it’s not an amusing one.

Last week I was reviewing the comments that had been trapped by the spam-catcher software, and noticed that a comment on the kidney stone post had been flagged. The entirety of the comment was “Is it possible to get off kidney dialysis? Australian specialist says it is.” I saw that and started banging my head against the wall. Kidney stones have nothing to do with dialysis and vice versa. Clearly the comment had been left by an automated spamming system that triggered based on the word “kidney”.

Out of morbid curiosity, I checked the link. There was also a link to a Facebook post which had around 600 likes (as of this writing, it’s up to 671 likes). The post consists of exactly two sentences and a link hyping a “man [who] managed to reverse CKD”. There are three comments on the post, one written by the original poster.

That link in turn leads to a post by a man who claims that by following a “great program” that “is really suitable for everyone”, he was avoided a kidney transplant and even got off of dialysis. Big red flag, folks. There’s no such thing as a “program” or course of treatment that’s suitable for everyone. Any medical treatment needs to be customized for the patient; for example dosages need to be appropriate to the patient’s age and weight. Similarly, there is no such thing as a treatment that’s suitable for all stages of a disease. In this case, the post claims the same program is good for “impaired kidney function”, “on kidney dialysis”,and “kidney failure”. That’s like saying “this treatment is good for paper cuts, haemophilia, and decapitation.”

Of course, there are comments from a few people who claim the same program worked for them too. Even assuming they’re real comments and not fakes written by the original poster, there’s no evidence that the “program” had anything to do with their recovery–or even that they were really ill in the first place. (I’m not even going to go into the whole “the plural of anecdote is not data” thing; just keep in mind that a bunch of testimonials are not the equivalent of a formal test.)

So what is this wonderful “program”? Well, according to the link, it’s a “100% guaranteed solution” that includes “Ancient Remedies, Not Commonly Known” developed by an Australian “Naturopath, Nutritionist, Herbalist, Medical Researcher, and Author”. It goes on to claim that doctors are flat-out wrong when they say that a damaged kidneys cannot be healed, and that the program is suitable for any of a long list of kidney disfunctions “or even if you don’t know what type of kidney function loss you have” (emphasis mine). In other words, this program will help you even if you only suspect you might be sick! What a wonderful boon to mankind.

Then there’s this delightful piece of misinformation: “You can be assured of the safety of every product you put in your mouth or on your skin when you know that it has been proven by clinical trials.” Folks, some of the most effective medications out there are incredibly toxic. A clinical trial simply shows whether or not a given substance is effective in the treatment of a condition. It says nothing about the safety of the substance, especially when it’s administered in uncontrolled conditions by someone with no medical training.

I could go on and on–and did in an earlier draft of this piece–but I think the bottom line is this quote from the bottom of the page:

The way I see it, you have two choices: 1) You can keep feeling tired and depressed all the time, keep wasting money on doctor’s bills, taking drugs, etc, etc … or 2) Try [name deleted] completely risk free and begin experiencing greater energy, increased GFR, less or no fluid retention, positive outlook and all other health improvements that go with this. The choice is yours.

In other words, you can continue medical treatment backed by generations of careful scientific study, or you can trust your life to someone who doesn’t understand science and claims to be able to do something that nobody else in the world can.

This scammer, and those of his ilk are, quite bluntly, evil. They make the bottom-dwellers like Sylvia Browne look good. Sylvia’s heirs will take your money and destroy your spirit; these scum will take your money and kill you. IMNSHO, a rational society would prosecute the perpetrators of this sort of garbage for fraud and attempted murder.

Please don’t fall for this scam or anything like it. Follow your doctor’s advice, not that of a random miracle worker spamvertising on the Web.

One final note: I’m torn about whether to include the villian’s name in this post. On the one hand, I don’t want to give him any publicity, but on the other hand leaving his name out makes it impossible for someone to potentially save their life by stumbling over this page. If you have thoughts one way or the other, please let me know in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Dangerous Spam

  1. Casey, this is endemic. I work from home and have had to go on the Internet to check website and info, mostly for the lifestyle magazine. The little Cookie monsters then get me ads on such things as expensive leather handbags and the Bed of Nails yoga-ish mat, neither of which I have any intent of purchasing. Volunteering for pets has gotten me countless product information and cat videos, the latter of which is fine with me. Yesterday, I was looking at racy Valentine’s Day products that were based on that “50 Shades of Gray” or “Grey” (I did not read it, and I”m proud of that), so I can hardly wait to see what the online business community thinks I’m into. And I NEVER click on a product or service or entertainment “like” on Facebook. How the heck can you rein in those monsters?
    As for outing the guy, I can see your reasoning through your recent experience and pain, and no doubt you want to throw rocks. Sharp ones. However, the very welcome and entertaining warning you gave should be another cautionary tale, although I’m frankly certain that your readers are too intelligent to fall for clicking on any of that crap.

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    • That sort of semi-customized advertising drives me nuts too. The only way to get rid of it is to use ad-blocking software, but that has its own problems, from what I hear. I work around it as best I can by using multiple browsers. I use Chrome for writing and blog surfing, Opera for research (that way my regular browsing doesn’t get ads related to my searches for information on poisons, terrorist organizations, and weird ice cream flavors), and Firefox for mostly everything else–and I use the “private browser” functionality for researching things to buy so the retailers don’t see me looking at the same items multiple times and jack the price up.

      I hope my regular readers are all smart enough to see through that kind of thing, but judging by the kinds of thing that show up in the list of searches that bring people to the blog, I’m less optimistic about the intelligence of the average Internet user. Those are the ones I like to think I might be able to save from unnecessary pain.

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  2. As it happens, part of my writing today included the subject of the Medicine Shows that were so popular during the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. One popular nostrum of the time was Hamlin’s Wizard Oil, which contained ammonia, camphor, chloroform, cloves, sassafras, and turpentine in an alcohol base. It was said to cure rheumatism and just about any other ailment afflicting humankind. People bought it by the gallon, even before and after Prohibition.
    During the 1920s, H.L. Mencken wrote that governmentally-sponsored medical care would be a waste, because given a choice between “scientific medicine” and chiropractic, the great majority of Americans would choose the latter.
    ‘Twas ever thus, and I’m sorry to say, I think ’tis ever will be. You spoke a good piece; I’d let it go at that, and not publish the name of the Snake Urine Salesman. I don’t believe you’d save a single life or a single dollar, and besides, you just don’t want to get into a pissing contest with a skunk. You just don’t want to do that.

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    • I actually had a couple of paragraphs about patent medicines and arsenic in an earlier draft of the post and wound up deleting them because they seemed like too much of a digression. I had forgotten about the Mencken quote though. Highly appropriate.

      Wouldn’t he be a Skunk Urine Salesman? Though, come to think of it, does skunk pee smell any worse than any other mammal’s?

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