The Old-time ‘Snake Oil Salesman’ is Making a Comeback – Is the Internet to Blame?

  • The modern-day Snake Oil Salesman is using new tech to revive old cons.
  • Snake Oil Salesman tactics are not confined to medicinal hoaxes.
  • The ancient practice has spilled over into massive financial fraud worldwide.

We’ve all seen the Old West movies and TV shows in which a well dressed gentleman rides into town plying his wares and touting a “Miracle Cure” elixir guaranteed to relieve all health maladies. Invariably, the tincture is nothing more than cheap, watered-down whiskey mixed with something sugary to make the “medicine” go down easier. In the long run, the only benefit is a rip-roaring drunken night, followed by a massive hangover.

But, hey, the “patient” feels better for a few hours, right? At least until the next morning. By that time, Dr. Feelgood is in the wind.

Those long-ago town-folk were taken in by the classic “Snake Oil Salesman” who pushed his “secret” formula on an unwitting populace, then folded up his tent to move on to the next backwater village full of an unexploited pool of “suckers.” As time passed, people became aware of these hucksters and, more often than not, ran them out of town on a rail.

Snake Oil Salesman
Many modern health products continue to be marketed using techniques formerly associated with snake oil. The marketing tactics consist of storefronts, retail stores and traveling peddlers. Examples are mainly of the herbal variety and dietary supplements. Claims that these products are scientific, healthy or natural are dubious at best.

To further counteract the practice in the last century or so, governments have written regulations and passed laws “protecting” citizens from spurious, harmful and even fatal claims made by soulless swindlers looking to make a quick and easy buck off the backs of a gullible, uneducated (and increasingly sickened) public. But, thanks to the rising power of the Internet, the modern snake oil salesman is thriving once again and doing better than ever.

And, their main target?

Terrified victims of cancer and other painful, fatal illnesses, desperate for the hope of any cure. After all, what do they have to lose? Except the contents of their wallets and, in some extreme cases, the very roof over their heads.

Of course, snake oil salesman techniques have become more sophisticated because of the rise of information technology in the past several decades. But, in the end, the means are the same: Fill desperate sufferers of incurable disease with a false sense of hope.

The web is bursting with such shameless practitioners of this age-old hoax, so I decided to concentrate on just one and expose the nefarious methods employed to empty the pockets of despairing cancer patients willing to give anything a try.

Take the claims of a certain Dr. Richard Gerhauser. He hosts a video making the rounds of the web claiming to uncover a secret kept from the public since the days of Adolph Hitler’s Germany. The story is that Hitler was deathly afraid of cancer (his beloved mother died in agony from it) and he dedicated massive government resources to find a cure. Apparently, according to Dr. Gerhauser, the efforts paid off.

In his narrative, a Nobel Prize winning scientist, Dr. Otto Warburg, undertook the daunting task of finding a cancer cure – and actually succeeded. His dogged efforts throughout the 1930s and into the war years of the 1940s were funded by the Nazi regime, and, although Dr. Warburg was a Jew, Hitler personally intervened on his behalf and allowed him to continue his research without fear of facing the terrible fate shared by millions of his fellow Jewish citizens.

But, since that time, corrupt forces have kept Dr. Warburg’s secret cure hidden from the public, causing the agonizing and early deaths of untold millions who may have benefited from this “remarkably simple… safe… and incredibly inexpensive” remedy, so as not to disrupt the multi-billion dollar health care industry’s approach to keeping cancer patients sick and beholden to painful (and expensive) treatments.

The tactics Dr. Gerhauser employs are tried and true. He intimates that health care officials and the government are keeping this miracle cure from the public and hustles readers into thinking the uncovered information will be censored at any moment. Get in while you can folks!

Of course, none of these hidden facts are revealed on the web page dedicated to disseminating this well-kept secret. Interested parties can only be informed by ordering a “free” book detailing all of the classified information being spoon-fed by an author indulging in a dubious practice. As the old saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

The lengthy screed goes on to make the claim that other illnesses may be remedied using the good doctor’s “underground” information, including simple, inexpensive miracle cures for diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and treatments aimed at defying the aging process.

He even makes the assertion (on a “private message” web page that’s actually available to anyone with a finger capable of clicking on an Ad link) of being privy to an arthritis cure which can “regrow new, healthy joints.”  Dr. Gerhauser goes on to making apocryphal claims to reveal secret remedies which will cure the most painful, even fatal medical conditions in “as little as 8 days.”

Nigerian Prince Email Scam
Internet scams are not confined to the old Snake Oil Salesman business model. The web is infested with what, to most, are obvious ploys to steal our hard earned dollars with phony emails purporting to come from desperate Nigerian Princes who pluck us out of obscurity to help them in their time of need. For a small price, naturally…

And, it’s all “Free.”

We don’t have to order this 323-page tome to see through this modern-day snake oil tactic. If these treatments and remedies were actually effective, no manner of coverup could keep them hidden from the light of day for very long. “The truth will out” as they say.

That’s how the old-time snake oil salesman ultimately met his demise. The day came when his customer base simply dried up as the public became conscious that spurious claims and quack medicinal cures were nothing more than ineffective placebos foisted on a gullible public. Thus, the dishonest practice largely faded into history.

Until the Internet came along.

Today, even the most reputable destination web sites are replete with craftily disguised “breaking news stories” designed to emulate real articles, but amounting to nothing more than electronic wolves in sheep’s clothing. So, don’t be taken in.

Sure, governments and health care professionals have a long history of making false and deceptive claims when it comes to treating illness. But, overwhelmingly, there are millions of noble, dedicated medical professionals and honest public servants who have made it their mission to root out the modern-day Snake Oil Salesman and discover ways to effectively treat even the most deadly of diseases and alleviate the suffering of millions.

But, sadly, there are still all too many real “Snake Oil Salesmen” out there looking to fleece desperately ill people who can be lulled into spending their life savings looking for miracle cures modern science is not yet able to provide.

And, the techniques have spilled over into other cons more suitable to the worldwide reach of the web. Have you been contacted by a Nigerian Prince via email lately?

So, resist the temptation to buy into the claims of a relative minority of charlatans and quacks willing to sully their professional reputations in order to hoodwink patients with deep pockets.

Remember, there’s another old saying to keep in mind: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

What do you think? Have you been the victim of a modern day “Snake Oil Salesman”?

Please let us know with a comment below…

Only $1/click

Submit Your Ad Here

Reid Moore

Reid Moore is a Freelance Blogger retired from the USAF who lives in Riverside, California.Reid Moore has been writing online since 1996 on a wide variety of topics including News, Sports, Politics, Tech, Gaming, Autos, Popular Culture, Science, Music, Poetry, Art, Literature, the Paranormal, the Outdoors, Travel, Nature, Pets, Animals and Wildlife.So, naturally, in his spare time, Reid Moore can be found taking a well deserved nap...

Leave a Reply