Saturday, June 12, 2010

Skeptic Blog

Nice blog with some decent information (and some spelling and grammatical errors...but hey, nobody's perfect lol).

Scientific Frontiers with Alan Alda

A great, albeit overly passive, look at various questionable practices starring Alan Alda.

More Chiropractor info

More about chiropractors....and the dangers of neck manipulation.
In case you were wondering about who does some of the studies and reviews....and with a HonCode as well

In regards to manipulation therapy for lower back pain:

Note it's findings..."it was no more or less effective than medication for pain, physical therapy, exercises, back school or the care given by a general practitioner."
I have found out that the Province of Ontario in 2005 had withdrawn public funding for chiropractic treatment. Trying to find out if it still so.
In any case this info still needs to be made public on a continual basis and more controls established

Putting the Con in Con-Artist

From Nicholas J Johnson

Phone Scam

From Melissa:

"Another clever scam to watch out for especially if you are or know someone in the restaurant business! "

HIV and Flu

From Jason Delaat:

"Just in case you haven't seen it yet this is pretty amazing and very exciting.

Not directly related to scambusting but since anti-vax has been a topic I thought people here might appreciate it:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Light Relief

This past weekend, I saw an ad on TV (I don't usually watch TV but I was in a hotel and well… one's options are limited). The ad being shown was for Light Relief.

I found some instant red flags which will be discussed here.

First the commercial Commercial is embedded on this site along with some info.

Here is a comparison with the USA website: You'll notice all the customer testimonials and the small disclaimers below them are unverifiable.

The first 8 seconds led me to believe that this was a questionable claim.

It said "Fast and Natural". Ok, if this is a machine, how is it "natural" in the widely accepted use of the term natural? Technically, it is natural since it exists in the natural world, but that is not the type of natural being suggested.

18 seconds in..."FDA cleared". This simply means any side effects do not outweigh the good that it does. Also consider the fact that it is just LED light so there will be little harm if any.

Next they show the LEDs working. They flicker on and off as well as for some reason, they put some blue in. They explain the reasoning for this is to show that it is working.

If this product uses infrared to heat, then you would feel it working. Items like coal give off heat without giving off much visible light. In fact, the term "infrared" literally means "below red" which is where infrared exists: Below the visible spectrum of red. So the visible red and blue would therefore have less infrared output than true infrared LEDs such as those used in TV remotes and communications.

It is interesting to note that "Bright sunlight provides an irradiance of just over 1 kilowatt per square meter at sea level. Of this energy, 527 watts is infrared radiation, 445 watts is visible light, and 32 watts is ultraviolet radiation." (Wikipedia). Most people are under the misconception that all radiant heat is due to infrared. The earth itself only gets 49% of its heat from the infrared it receives from the sun. The rest is from other radiation frequencies including ultra-violet. Just ask any sunbather!

After doing some quick research into infrared heating, I found out that most use incandescent bulbs, such as those you can see at restaurants with food under the heat lamps. LEDs are designed to give off very little heat in comparison. Also, any heat is dissipated at the base. Remember that LEDs are designed to be efficient. Most standard LEDs use much less than 1 watt of energy.

Heat does have an effect on blood flow. However, since this product does not state the amount of heat given off, it is impossible to accurately access this claim. However, due to standard LEDs giving off little heat, this is again, questionable.

So because of some of these factors, I am questioning the true effectiveness of this product. I assume that a lot of its "success" has to do with the placebo effect. I would venture that it's more efficient and effective (not to mention cheaper) to place a hot water bottle on your affected area for relief.


Some great sites to visit

I was suggested these sites from this music video
The Rationalist Anthem

So much info to go through on this site. Good though.

Deepak Chopra and the ROM

From Jason Delaat:
"The Royal Ontario Museum has decided to host a talk by Deepak Chopra. Chopra's particular brand of medical quackery is many things but scientific is not one of them. The ROM hosting Chopra is an implicit endorsement of his pseudo-science nonsense and lends him credibility he does not deserve. If you'd like to add your name to a letter protesting Chopra's appearance at the ROM event go here and leave your name in the comments: "

Symphony of Science

Something a little different. Great series of songs/vids on this channel.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I started scambusting with this:

Here is some recent video discussing the "Vaccine War" Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6a Part 6b


It's been almost a week since I last posted. Been busy with stuff. I am working on a detailed expose on chiroprators. Been finding out things that I assumed about it and things I didn't know. For some quick info:

Wedding Day Scams

As a wedding service provider, this is an important one to be let known. Over the past 19 years, I have been DJing weddings and providing other services such as balloon decor and other entertainment. During this time, I have become aware of a variety of scams, both for the engaged couples and the service providers.

One of the biggest is the fake wedding show. There have been some shows (luckily I have not encountered them personally) which are just outright non-existent. I've heard of couples who bought tickets and vendors who bought booths show up for the event to find the location knows nothing about it. Always check before buying booth space that the venue is actually booked for the occasion...a quick phone call will tell you that.

Another is commonly known as the Dress-Label Scam. There have been cases where bridal shops have changed the tag on the dress to hide important information. They might change a low-grade silk-like material gown's label to say silk to charge more. Some even just change the label to hide it's origin. Maybe it was from the Bargain shop and they want to sell it as a designer gown. Now of course it is really hard to discover some of these, so the best way to protect yourself is to work with reputable companies with good references and Better Business Bureau rates and such.

Getting married abroad can present some problems. Obviously it's harder to check on the qualifications and actual locations if you are not a frequent traveller. Some places will overcharge. Some weddings are not recorded or officiated by unqualified or uncertified persons. Worse of all, check to see which countries wedding licenses/certificates are recognized by your own country.

And now my own personal thorn in my side: Service Providers who let you down. There are some providers who are all- out scammers just out for you cash. Again, check references. Also check licensing. Here's my thorn as a DJ: There are so many unlicensed DJs out there. If you visit you can learn all about the licensing requirements of DJs. There's just too many out there downloading music, thus having no overhead and charging very little. That is a red flag right there. A friend's brother just had their DJ they hired get fined for copyright violation and not being licensed.

Weddings should be a time of great joy. Relieve undue stress by protecting yourself from these scams.

Secret Shopper Scams

Yesterday I was talking with one of our members and the topic of Mystery Shopping came up. I knew enough to avoid it, but decided to research more about exactly what it is and is any of it legit. My friend told me the story of how he got hired and was sent a cheque for a large amount and he was supposed to cash the checque and then send some money (leaving a significant portion for him) to an address overseas. Luckily he contacted authorities on that matter. This is what I found so far on the topic:

Have they done any long term studies?

Why yes they have....

Benny Hinn

From Robert Lamar: "The hypocrisy, the fraud and the lies that run rampant throughout the multi-million dollar Benny Hinn ministry is outrageous. But people still want to believe. Following is an investigative report that takes you into Benny Hinn's world and is entitled, "Do You Believe In Miracles?" which is taken from the 'Fifth Estate...,' the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's excellent weekly news documentary program. Be outraged, but enjoy!"

Thanks for posting this Robert. Benny Hinn is definitely a most questionable character. You'll find he uses a lot of the same techniques used by the various scammers already reported on Scambusting!

Oh how they often prey on the desperate big time.


Just want to give a shout out to Robert Lamar and this site. Hope to meet you in person one day soon.

Kevin Trudeau

Thanks to Robert Lamar for finding this:

Kevin Trudeau and his quack cures. Pass this on. The video
MadTV's take on Kevin lol

Magnet Therapy

I've been wanting to touch on this for a while. I know that a few members here in this group do have some anecdotes about usage of magnets. I will state that it is definitely not what it's cracked up to be and is a result of the placebo effect, although I don't deny their experience...just the facts.

Magnet therapy is the use of static magnets for aid in blood circulation. Claims include helping with pain, healing properties, asthma reduction and more.

One of the best known "magnetizers" was Franz Mesmer. He became all the rage in Paris circa 1778. He would sit patients near a vat of "magnetized" water and would then wave magnetized iron rods around the person. Eventually he discovered, with his colourful attire, that he was just as effective simply leaving the magnets behind and waving his hands around them. I assume this is where "mesmerized" came from.

Interesting to note that, eventually the king appointed a royal inquiry into this with some of the top Parisian physicians and also a U.S. representative by the name of Benjamin Franklin, who believed that the patients did benefit from this practice simply because it kept them away from bloodletting and leeching (similar to the rise in homeopathy at the was a better choice then other practices of the time including the use of mercury to cure).

Magnet Therapy proponents claim that the blood is helped to circulate. Often by watching their videos, they show reddening of the skin around the magnets. This is simply false. The iron in blood is not attracted to the magnet at all. This is because the iron in haemoglobin is not ferromagnetic, but in fact, diamagnetic (it's actually weakly repelled).

The magnets used are often similar to that of fridge magnets. Fridge magnets are designed so that the magnetic field drops off very quickly with a minimal distance. How many papers can you put between your fridge and magnet before the field is so weak it won't hold anything up? Go ahead try it. Similar type magnets were put into foot inserts (yes from that famous company in 1997). Next time you are at a place that sells them, take the package to the greeting card section. See how many cards it'll hold up. Now consider this: If the field is that small, how will it even penetrate your sock, and then your skin?

An MRI (Medical Resonance Imaging) using an ultra strong magnetic field. Know what the most common activity in the body it is used for? Studying blood flow. If magnets had any major effects on blood circulation, an MRI would most certainly cause a person to explode.

Recently (1990's) we've seen a rise in the popularity of magnet therapy thanks due in part to celebrity endorsements from golfers and quarterbacks. "Oh sure," we say, "quarterbacks know pain" so we should take their word for it that a certain product works. Anecdotes are not proof though and often exist due to confusion of correlation and causation. **(see Scambusting wall links for more info).

It seems that any study that is supportive (marginally) was small (under 100 people) and unrepeatable thus suggesting some flaw like the Bayler College of Medicine study. All larger studies since that 1997 one have shown no causation.

References (watch this vid to see them prove it)
Demon Haunted World--Carl Sagan
Voodoo Science--Robert Park

The Health Hound

Wat up Dawg! Found this neat themed blog/site while researching magnet therapy. Check it out!

Facebook Scams

From Melissa:
"Since Facebook is such a huge social networking site, this was a good article about some of the scams that are circulating today and simple ways to protect ourselves. "

There is a lot on FB to watch out for, including those people who add you as a friend and you don't know who they are and they have no friends in common with you. Upon viewing their wall/profile you find they are always saying..."hey guys, view my naked pics at this site here....." ummm yeah, I'll get right on that

There are some people I add that I have no mutual friends with. But I always check them out first...and if they are not letting enough info through, then I don't accept them.


Something a little different for Scambusting, but important nonetheless. A great way to be able to look at oneself and your interaction with the world.

Being Green

Since I posted the Organic Food discussion topic yesterday for Earth Day, I thought I'd continue on with these episodes from Penn & Teller's Bullshit series.


Organic Food

Now here is a hot topic since it is the big fad right now.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines “organic” as the lack of non-natural pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and fertilizers, as well as bioengineering and radiation.

Through my initial study of this topic, I am finding that it came about due to the wanted avoidance of pesticides from the 1950s. Today however, pesitcides are safer, more efficient and decompose rapidly in nature. Many organic farmers use “natural” pesticides like the carcinogenic pyrethrum or fermented urine. Most use manure, a major source of E. coli bacteria, which poisons about 25,000 people a year in the US.

Organic foods have a higher risk of contamination, but it also spoils quicker than standard food.

There is also the lower yeild and therefore more usage of land. So there needs to be more farmland and less forests to supply the same amount that standard food uses.

Now don't confuse unprocessed foods with organic food though. I am all for pure juices and no sugar-added or dyed foods, but that is a personal choice.

Some people however are allergic to certain dyes and preservatives and therefore unprocessed and sometimes organic food is a better choice for them. This though is due to necessity and not because standard food is no good for people. Some is just not good for some people.

Organic Food now is no longer about local (originally it was). It is about big business. It's selling of a philosophy that has been long lost. We get organic food now from all across the globe which of course has a bigger "carbon footprint" (that's in brackets because I question the whole carbo footprint thing and am just using it to show the contradiction). Again it uses more land and is shipped and also spoils quicker. The beauty for the companies is that the profit margins are bigger because the demand is so high.

For more info:

Fake Cancer Treatment

No words can express my initial reaction after watching this.

Props to Conan

Why do doctors turn to quackery?

In my opinion, the appeal to authority is one of the more dangerous red flags to fall for, especially in cases where a health care professional is in that spot. This is why one should try to be as informed as possible with their own health issues. This way you can work WITH your doctor. I do this with my doctor. I tell him of my research into the issue and what is his advice.
So this brought about the question....why do some health care professionals turn to psuedoscience health initiatives

Placebo Anology for us magicians

From Jason Delaat:

A Very Passionate Talk A most honourable human (related to above video)

Brian Dunning

Great Site from Brian Dunning. I've been following his stuff off and on for a few years after seeing his video on critical thinking called "Here Be Dragons". Check the site out.
Here Be Dragons the movie:

Online Scams

Thanks to Adam Mada for this

Buyer and Seller Beware

Another type of scam that has recently been brought to my attention is one when dealing with those you are selling to (like from or, craigslist...etc). You'll find a lot of scams on their as well as people wanting to scam you when they buy from you.

First off, don't let them tug at your heart strings. Some of these people will tell you a sob story to make you feel sorry for them. Often check out their other ads (a lot of them do) and you may find that they are asking for free LCD TVs or other such stuff that really doesn't coincide with their dilemma they are spouting to you. If you do feel sorry for someone or think maybe their is some truth to what they say, simple advise them of avenues that can help them (Goodfellows, Goodwill, numerous charities...etc). Trust me, these organizations are better equipped to offer the right type of help and guidance.

Second, when selling stuff, always make sure the buyer sees the product as it should be (it works, no holes, clean,...etc). This way they can't later claim that when they got home and tried, it didn't work, had holes, or was defective. Yes, it's always "Buyer Beware" but you should also have "Seller Beware".

Shopping Online

From Melissa

"If you're one of the many people who shop online frequently, check out this article.
When you're being presented with a good deal, that's when your scammer radar gets temporarily turned off and you become an easy target. Most importantly, ALWAYS read the fine print before purchasing! A $10 super-saver deal might end up... costing you $100 when all is said and done.  "

FYI Advance Fee Fraud

Junk Science Judo

An interesting site/blog. I find it tends to lean to a very political slant. That being said, there is some good info there.

Weak Passwords

Nicholas J Johnson says:  "I always suggest the following passwords. Pick a song you like (not your favourite). Write the acronym that song. e.g. "It's a god-awful small affair To the girl with the mousy hair" becomes IAGASATTGWTMH.Swap in some letters (1=I etc.) and you end up with a very long, seemingly random password. 1@G@S@2TGWTMH. "

Good advice

Blank Paper

Blank Paper anyone?

Derren Brown is awesome.   Thanks to Melissa for this link

Scams and Cons

Here's a couple of vids showing some cons. Intersting stuff.

Stay Away from Lorraine Day

Transmission Flush

I almost did a transmission flush. Thankfully I did not.

African Con Men

Deepak Chopra

The rejection of modern medicine can be a dangerous thing. I have no problems with anyone using any form of spirituality to aid them mentally through challenges, just as long as it does not advise them of stopping their regular medical treatments. Meditation, praying and other thought focusing practices can help one relax and reduce stress which allow for them to focus on their physical medical needs better.

I must admit that I knew very little about Deepak Chopra. I've read some things that I have found alarming over the last hour. It would appear that some of what he advises is a transistion away from modern medicine.
( )

What I find particularly troubling is Ayurvedic herbal products containing high levels of mercury and other metals like lead. I can understand people's angry feeling about this.

It is interesting to note for magicians like me is that Deepak's adviser had an influence on Doug Henning, Canadian Magician. When I turned 18, I was able to vote and wouldn't you know it...Doug Henning was running as a member of the Natural Law party of Canada.

Yes I voted for his party. I was young and just thought it was cool that one of my magical heroes was running. Little did I know back then.

Assume the Postion

Something a little more on the funny side, but shows how perception is affected by pop culture.,%20&ei=9H1cSMajHKOK-QGMlYGZAQ#

Emily Rosa

Emily Rosa...way to go girl!


Does homeopathy work?
Does water have "memory"?
Will BBC's Horizon win $1,000,000?  (thanks Jason Delaat for the link)
Above is James Randi on homeopathy

Here is a comedic look

Brian Brushwood (which you may recognize from Scam School)

from quackwatch


This is a great site that everyone should be aware of. It can greatly help you sift through poor health websites with good ones. If you go to and scroll down to the bottom, on the left hand side you will the the HONcode symbol which you can click on to verify it follows the Health On the Net Foundation
These codes are:

1. Authoritative Indicate the qualifications of the authors Any medical or health advice provided and hosted on this site will only be given by medically trained and qualified professionals unless a clear statement is made that a piece of advice offered is from a non-medically qualified individual or organisation.

2. Complementarity Information should support, not replace, the doctor-patient relationship. The information provided on this site is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her existing physician.

3. Privacy Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor. Confidentiality of data relating to individual patients and visitors to a medical/health Web site, including their identity, is respected by this Web site. The Web site owners undertake to honour or exceed the legal requirements of medical/health information privacy that apply in the country and state where the Web site and mirror sites are located.

4. Attribution Cite the source(s) of published information, date and medical and health pages. Where appropriate, information contained on this site will be supported by clear references to source data and, where possible, have specific HTML links to that data. The date when a clinical page was last modified will be clearly displayed (e.g. at the bottom of the page).

5. Justifiability Site must back up claims relating to benefits and performance. Any claims relating to the benefits/performance of a specific treatment, commercial product or service will be supported by appropriate, balanced evidence in the manner outlined above in Principle 4.

6. Transparency Accessible presentation, accurate email contact. The designers of this Web site will seek to provide information in the clearest possible manner and provide contact addresses for visitors that seek further information or support. The Webmaster will display his/her E-mail address clearly throughout the Web site.

7. Financial disclosure Identify funding sources. Support for this Web site will be clearly identified, including the identities of commercial and non-commercial organisations that have contributed funding, services or material for the site.

8. Advertising policy Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content.

There is a nice search function that you can use when searching for Health information. Although the foundations clearly states that it cannot certify the quality of the information, I feel it is one of the best starting points for sifting through the BS found on the net

Ghost Auction

Thanks to Clinton Hammond for finding this

"Someone shoulda busted this scam before it happened"

Pool Tricks Revealed

Another cool Scam school episode. Teaches you to always be aware of wording...and not just at the bar :)

Goji Berry

And yet another fruit juice scam. And again, found it through FB and a friend falling for it.
The link through facebook brought me to this page .

I notice this disclaimer after the claims "†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not... intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."

I also notice a logo in the lower right corner saying "Freelife International"

A search for Freelife International brought up some troubling results. Shows some info about it and also some of the problems including a lawsuit agaisnt Freelife. CBC also did a documentary on it: (part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3)

Of course people who do sell the juice are also reporting on scamming problems.
yet you go here and see almost the same article written by someone else...hmmm.

Not sure about the bias of this site, but it does show an abundance of issues which should a least raise a red flag.

As stated before with the acai berry diet, always beware of products that just use testimonials, as those are anecdotes and most cannot be backed up with data.

And also beware of Multi-Level Marketing (MLM). As shown here with Freelife, distributors don't always follow company guidelines.

Psychic Fraud

Thanks to Sarah Fitzgerald for posting this on her FB page

Short Change Scam

The Short Change scam is a classic, but it still widely used today.

Psychology Myths

Thanks to Sheryl Davies for finding this for me

Acai Berry Diet and MLM

I recieved, today, an invite on facebook to a page called "News You NEED to Know" It is listed as an event. It is nothing but! On the page is this link: which leads you to a nicely written "news" article about a reporter trying out the acai berry diet.

First thing I noticed was that I couldn't access any other link to other news on that page (although it could just be a regional thing...but how come I could get this page??). I thought it funny that it was showing this as the HOME page. So red flags were going up there.

I read through the article. Very positive (nothing wrong with that), but it was all anecdotal. For an explanation of the problems with anecdotes:

Where was the reference to science data? (a reference is more than just stating data, but showing where that data came from...see on how referencing is supposed to be done). References are usually are linked in the body or listed at the bottom of the articles. Well I scrolled down to the bottom and what did I find???

This "news" website is actually selling this product. Red flag number 4. They obviously have a vested interest in promoting this product. Now, because someone can make money off of what they are talking about doesn't mean it's bad, it just means become more aware of what they are saying.

I did some quick research into seeing if this was a scam and came up with the following....or course I visited, one of my favourite places to check.

From someone actually selling exotic juices:

Another quick point says in the articale "One blogger from Windsor, ON claims to have lost 32 pounds in 30 days while taking the Advanced Acai and Advanced Cleanse diet" which I found to be a red flag as well. A lot of advertisers use IP indentifiers to entice you to click on them (many dating and porn sites use this technique).

When I clicked on the other "news" sections I get redirected to a page selling Acai Berry diet products
http://www.topgradeacai/    so I think I can officially say that this News site is totally bogus.

I research more about Acai Berry in regards to MLM (multi-level marketing) I found the following info on Monavie

Of course that lead to questioning exactly about anitoxidants...

I wanted to see what the distributors are actually putting out

I had a question about Anoxia in plants (lack of oxygen) since plants produce oxygen, so how does a submerged root system cause problems. I found this study:

I also had a question about Glucosamine because I found some info claiming Monavie to be one of the only sources of vegetarian Glucosamine. I quickly found other sources from other alternative medicine/living sites (go figure): and also found this

Delving further... which links to

Shows a significant finding.."Even apple juice (which also tested poorly) has more phenolics "

Is it organic?

Be sure to check all the references in the postings above and the subsequent blog comments which often have more references.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of information that's out there. I did find this to be the best I found so far from a few hours (3) of research.

Hollywood Hyperbole

Great article showcasing how the media can exagerate claims. I talk about what I call "red flag" words to be aware about that will cause you to slow down and actually read/listen to what's being said in my discussions teaching people to be aware.
"Of course, we live in a society where words have lost their meaning." Best quote from this blog.

I'm interested in picking up his book "Media Mythmakers: How Journalists, Activists, and Advertisers Mislead Us"

The Secret World of Shoplifting

Watched this interesting doc last night. Interesting to note the details they give on the black market of shoplifted items. Great point made....if you can get an item cheaper than Walmart, Target....then you should be asking yourself where did that item really come from.
Click on the link and watch the full vid (located just to the right of the text on the website)

Voodoo Science

An absolute great book. Quick and easy read. Sites the studies used. A definite must handbook for the questioning kind.

Another top ten....

Yep another top ten list. Found this through Museum of Hoaxes

Earthbound Pets

Look at this foolishness....I mean c'mon...most pets will barely live past 10 years lol :)

Unfortunately, there are some folks who would by into this.

Museum of Hoaxes

Another great blog. And I highly reccomend picking up a copy of "Hippo Eats Dwarf" by Alex Boese

Top Ten Scams of the Decade

My magical friend, Nicholas J. Johnson from Australia, compiled this list of his opinion on the top scams of the decade. See if you agree. Be sure to check out his whole blog:

Baloney Detection Kit

Do Children Get too many vaccinations?