Trevor Laffan: Scammers and con merchants who are a cancer on society

There are scammers out there though who are devious and dangerous - people who promote so-called miracle cures by spreading misinformation around treatments for cancer in order to make money, so says Trevor Laffan
Trevor Laffan: Scammers and con merchants who are a cancer on society

VULNERABLE POSITION: People who have been diagnosed with cancer can be vulnerable and fall prey to false claims on cures

HARDLY a day goes by now when I don’t get a call on my landline at home from some guy advising me that my broadband is about to be disconnected or telling me that my internet is slow.

They always tell me not to worry though because they can solve my problem. Lucky for me.

I was changing my phone a few weeks ago at an Eir shop in Midleton and I got talking to the guy working there about these calls and he told me that they get them in the shop too. So, these characters are ringing Eir to tell them they can improve their internet for them.

What they want, of course, is to get you to open the laptop and follow their instructions to make changes to your computer, which will then give them remote access to it. They effectively have control of it then so the caller and his buddies can monitor your online credit card transactions, and soon they’ll have all the necessary information they require to clone your credit card.

While these scammers are a complete pain, it’s easy to get rid of them by just hanging up the phone. Or, if you’re in the humour, and you have some time on your hands, you can lead them on a merry dance for a while until they eventually get frustrated and hang up on you instead. Juvenile maybe, but mildly entertaining.

It’s very difficult for law enforcement people to do anything about these conmen. Their phone numbers are impossible to trace because they’re buried deep in cyber space and other places that I don’t understand, so the best thing to do is ignore them and just hang up the phone.

There are other scammers out there though who are more devious and dangerous. I’m talking about the people who promote so-called miracle cures by spreading misinformation around treatments for cancer in order to make money.

Back in April, Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell was proposing legislation to outlaw this behaviour, with penalties of up to €1 million for offenders who advertise fake or unregulated treatments for cancer.

It’s hard to believe that this kind of legislation should even be necessary, but this is the world we now live in. Some people are prepared to earn a living by preying on the sick, making money by offering false hope of miracle cures to vulnerable patients, who will grab at anything that might give them a chance to extend their lives.

It’s difficult to understand how these creatures can look at themselves in a mirror, or how they can look at their family members in the eye, without feeling complete and utter shame.

Cheating seriously ill and dying patients is as low as one can go.

The Irish Cancer Society has welcomed the proposed new law that will ban advertisements of so-called cancer ‘treatments’.

Averil Power, Chief Executive of the Irish Cancer Society said: “Vulnerable patients are being targeted with false claims that cancer can be cured by things such as ‘miracle foods’, coffee enemas and homeopathy.

“They are being encouraged to ignore their doctors’ advice, stop medical treatment and have faith in so-called ‘alternatives’ that have no scientific basis.”

Such dangerous advice leaves them at risk of harmful side-effects and even death.

“When you are diagnosed with cancer, a natural response is to search for ways to increase your chances of surviving the disease,” said Ms Power.

Patients suffering side effects associated with conventional treatments such as chemotherapy also understandably want to know if there is a ‘better’ option.

This leaves them vulnerable to false claims made by people who profit from the sale or promotion of alternative treatments.”

From my own personal experience, I have a new understanding of this issue. My brush with prostate cancer was minor compared to what many other sufferers are going through, but I reacted like everyone else who gets that diagnosis. The wind was taken out of me and there were lots of outcomes and scenarios running through my mind. Mostly unpleasant ones.

When I was told I would have to wait three months for a test to see if the cancer had progressed beyond the prostate, I was thrown into a panic. I spent the next few hours on the phone, trying to establish if I could have this test done sooner.

In those few hours my emotions were all over the place and I was completely stressed and vulnerable. It’s hard to describe the sense of relief I felt when I got it sorted.

The point I’m trying to make here, is that when you are faced with a cancer diagnosis, you don’t always behave rationally.

No matter how minor your condition is, cancer is a worry. I can only imagine how patients with a serious or terminal condition must feel.

They are functioning on a different level altogether and prepared to grasp at anything that offers a bit of hope.

Trying to cash in on the suffering of others by offering them a false cure is despicable.

Fuelled by greed, and without an ounce of compassion, these people see an opportunity to make money with no regard for the physical or mental welfare of those they’re extorting money from.

The Irish Cancer Society recommends that patients seek information from medical professionals, qualified dieticians and trusted sources such as

Their cancer specialist nurses are also happy to answer any queries and address any concerns patients, or their carers, may have.

They can be contacted on Freephone 1800 200 700 or by email to

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