Northwest NEWS

December 3, 2001

Editorial

Guest Editorial: Consumers should be wary of fraudulent anthrax pitches

from the Better Business Bureau
   The recent terrorist attacks and anthrax cases have many people around the world fearful and worried about how best to protect their families. Preying on these fears, some Internet sites, magazines and informercial ads are selling anthrax "cures," gas masks, biochemical suits, high-priced survival and emergency kits. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to use common sense, and to do some homework. Know the facts before parting with your money.
   The U.S. Postal Service (www.usps.gov) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) have issued advice on what you should do if you suspect you have received a letter or package that may contain anthrax or any other dangerous germs.
   Purchasing antibiotics for anthrax over the Internet is not recommended. The quality, source and actual contents of the antibiotics are not always known when you buy drugs from an Internet site that does not require a prescription. Some of these drugs are from overseas, are stored improperly or may be contaminated. Unless you are specifically notified or instructed by public health officials, there is no need to obtain or take antibiotics to prevent anthrax.
   Purchasing gas masks, biochemical suits, high-powered air purifiers and other gadgets that claim to protect and eradicate anthrax and other germs could be a waste of your money. Some companies are offering sub-standard products at very high prices. A higher price does not necessarily mean a better product.
   Check the company out with the BBB. Keep in mind that if the company is new, there may not yet be a record of customer complaints.
   Use common sense. Ask yourself if you really need the product.
   Online, anyone can pretend to be an expert. Do not be misled by fancy Web sites or claims of a "new" or "quick cure-all" for anthrax.
   Evaluate the advertiser's use of government references. Some scam artists use "look-alike" government names and symbols or claim that their product is "official" "approved" or "endorsed" by the government to add credibility to their marketing pitches.
   Others adopt a conspiracy stance, claiming that the government is trying to suppress medical cures or products.
   For more information on the services and products provided by the BBB, check online at www.thebbb.org or call the Consumer Hotline at (206) 431-2222.