If you are thinking about buying your Migraine medications online, you may want to think again. The FDA has reissued a public warning about an international extortion scam by criminals claiming to be “FDA special agents” looking to extort money from consumers. The scheme involves people who purchased prescription medications online and/or by “telepharmacies.” The first public warning was first was issued in 2008, and another again in 2009. This latest public warning was announced January 7, 2011.
People posing as “FDA special agents” contact these potential victims who have purchased prescription medications online or through “telepharmacies.” They instruct the victim that not only is it illegal to purchase medications this way, but to avoid action by law enforcement, they will have to pay a hefty fine, which can be anywhere from $100 to $250,000. The unsuspecting victim is instructed to wire the “fines” to a specific location, which is typically in the Dominican Republic. If the victims don’t agree to the demands of these scam artists and refuse to send money, they are then threatened with a property search, being deported, arrested or even physical harm.
Dara Corrigan, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said,
“Impersonating an FDA official is a violation of federal law. The FDA wants to make it clear that special agents and other law enforcement officials are not authorized to impose or collect criminal fines. Only through a court order is this possible.”
The FDA believes that some of the victims may have been contacted after purchasing pharmaceuticals from other possibly connected, illegal sites located overseas or who have been victims of credit card fraud. These extortionists have some startling information on their targets; names, addresses, telephone numbers, credit card purchases - even social security numbers and birthdays. The FDA has said the criminals have been changing phones and/or numbers, making it look as if the calls are coming from the United States, which may make the investigation more difficult for the FDA. They have also posed as “DEA special agents,” “FBI special agents,” and various other federal officials. The ongoing international criminal investigation by The FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations is being assisted by other federal agencies, arrests have been made, and some criminals are waiting prosecution. Unfortunately, the FDA does expect this scam to continue and will update the public on its progress.
I’d also like to stress the importance of purchasing our medications from a “known” pharmacy. As tempting as it is to buy cheap drugs online, this is a clear cut example how dangerous it can be. Even if we don’t fall victim to a monetary scam, purchasing medications from an unscrupulous online pharmacy, puts our life and identity at risk. “The FDA also reminds consumers that pharmaceutical products offered online and by telephone by sources of unknown origin can pose a substantial health risk. Products recovered during this investigation that were purchased from online or telephone sources have been found to contain trace amounts of heroin, other undisclosed and potentially harmful active pharmaceutical ingredients, or no active ingredient at all. Purchases should only be made from licensed pharmacies located in the United States. In addition to the increased risk of purchasing unsafe and ineffective drugs from websites operating outside the law, personal data may be compromised.”
FDA News Release. “FDA warns public of continued extortion scam by FDA impersonators.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. January 7, 2011.