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Scammers hawk fake Ebola cures

If you were looking for another reason to indulge in dark chocolate, a so-called natural health website recently offered one: It claimed the tasty treat can alleviate the excruciating symptoms of Ebola.

Unfortunately, a magic chocolate pill to treat Ebola sounds too good to be true because it is.

Scammers are cashing in on Americans’ Ebola panic by offering bogus “cures” and treatments containing everything from herbal oils and dark chocolate to silver and snake venom, federal officials say.

Some websites offer personal protection kits that include full body “germ protection suits,” rubber gloves, face masks, disinfectant spray and “natural” dietary supplements that sellers claim can prevent infection.

One such site, Dr. Rima Truth Reports, at drrimatruthreports.com, sold personal protection packs and family protection packs that included products called “Nano Silver” and “CBD organic dark chocolate bars.” The site advertised these supposed nutrients as nontoxic treatments for Ebola, citing what it described as research funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission sent a letter last month to the New Jersey company that runs the Dr. Rima website, Natural Solutions Foundation, warning that promoting silver or chocolate as a cure for Ebola was a violation of federal law.

In response to the letter, the company posted a statement online, arguing that the agencies have no authority to regulate its products.

“FDA has been itching to ban silver and other natural remedies for decades because they are cheap, effective, compete successfully with antibiotics and are safe for everyone,” said the statement.

The company then directed readers how to donate to its legal defense fund.

The letter was one of at least three such warnings the FDA and FTC sent last month to companies for advertising products that supposedly treat or cure Ebola, the virus that’s devastated communities in parts of West Africa and killed one man in the United States.

The other two companies, Young Living and dōTERRA International LLC, allegedly claimed that essential oils of cinnamon bark and oregano could ward off Ebola and other diseases, according to the letters.

There are no FDA-approved vaccines or cures for Ebola, and experimental drugs to treat the disease are in very early stages of development, the agency said in a consumer alert.

“By law, dietary supplements cannot claim to prevent or cure disease,” the alert said. “Individuals promoting these unapproved and fraudulent products must take immediate action to correct or remove these claims or face potential FDA action.”

Con artists also are trying to take advantage of sympathy for victims of the deadly disease by launching fake fundraising campaigns on the Internet and by telephone.

The Better Business Bureau told consumers last week to be wary of more than 100 pages on the website GoFundMe that claim to raise money for Ebola victims or research.

One page claimed to seek donations for Amber Vinson, one of the Dallas nurses who became infected with Ebola.

“The site may have been the work of a well-intentioned individual, but members of Vinson’s family tell BBB they did not authorize the effort,” the bureau said in a statement. That campaign was shut down.

The bureau also flagged fundraising phone calls claiming to be from the Bronx, N.Y., chapter of a well-known charity. The callers claimed to be raising money to help respond to the Ebola crisis, but the organization doesn’t have a chapter in the Bronx.

Donors should research any charitable solicitations carefully, “especially those that surface following an event that gains media attention,” the bureau said.

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