Consumer Health Digest #04-19

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 12, 2004

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

PayPal "spoof" warning. Spammers are using messages that appear to be from PayPal but are actually probes intended to steal identifying data from the recipients. Typical messages read:

Clicking on the link brings the recipient to a forged eBay site that looks virtually identical to a real one, asks the recipient to log in, and then leads through several authentic-looking pages before requesting credit card and bank information. Dr. Stephen Barrett discovered that the initial login can be done with any username and password, so it is safe to assume that any information will be captured by the scammers who designed the process. "PayPal" messages like the above should be forwarded with full headers to, which will quickly verify that they are forgeries. This topic is outside of Consumer Health Digest's normal scope, but we feel it is so important that we are including it. We hope our readers will further publicize the problem.

Hydroxycut marketers pay $100,000 fine. Canadian-based MuscleTech Research and Development Inc., has paid $100,000 to the State of Missouri to resolve charges that it had misrepresented the effectiveness and risk of taking Hydroxycut, a weight-control pill that contained ephedra. [Distributor of diet supplement that contained ephedra pays Missouri $100,000 under agreement with Attorney General Nixon. News release, May 4, 2004] Last year the state attorney general charged that the company had:

To settle the matter, the MuscleTech agreed to:

"Dr." Paula Bickle unmasked. Dr. Stephen Barrett has written a detailed report about the activities of Paula A. Bickle. "PhD," an Internet broadcaster who promotes and sells American Longevity products. Bickle describes herself as a qualified nutritionist, nutritional biochemist, distinguished educator, groundbreaking researcher, consumer advocate, and health authority. In reality, she is none of these. Her doctoral degree came from Columbia Pacific University, a nonaccredited correspondence school that was shut down by a California court in 1999. Her research was sufficiently substandard that she was fired as principal investigator in one project. Two clinics she has run were were closed after she was prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license in Oregon and Washington. See Quackwatch for additional information.

British "volcanic rock" scammer sentenced to prison. Paul King, 52, former manager of the band Tears for Fears has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail for fraudulent trading related to a purported cure for drunkenness made from volcanic rock. He was also banned from being a company director for 10 years. Prosecutors said he took £458,000 from investors in a firm set up to market the remedy in Britain after promising to use his music-industry contacts to help raise money. Instead, he set up a shadow company with the same name and siphoned off money to maintain a luxury lifestyle. [Ex-Tears-for-Fears boss jailed. U-TV, May 7, 2004]

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This page was posted on May 12, 2004.