The possibility of receiving bogus medication from online pharmacies hasn't stopped people from buying drugs online. Now, some scammers may be taking their fraud to another level.
On Dec. 29, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that scammers pretending to be FDA special agents were calling customers of Internet drug pharmacies and demanding they pay a fine for buying medications online. According to the FDA, the scammers request the fine - ranging from $100 to $250,000 - be sent via wire transfer to a designated location, typically in the Dominican Republic. Those who refuse to pay are threatened with arrest, deportation and even physical harm.
"Impersonating an FDA official is a violation of federal law," said Michael Chappell, the FDA's acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, in a statement. "The public should note that no FDA official will ever contact a consumer by phone demanding money or any other form of payment."
The scam also targeted people who purchased medications over the phone in so-called "telepharmacies." To Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant with Sophos, the FDA's warning underscores that many bogus online pharmacies are operated not only by opportunists, but also criminal gangs determined to make a buck through fraud.
"Next time you see that spam e-mail offering you cheap Viagra or protection against Swine flu it might be wise to think twice," he blogged. "Not only might they be selling you counterfeit drugs, not only might they be planning to pinch your credit card details, they might also be planning to scare you into putting even more of your hard-earned savings into their pockets."
The FDA advises anyone who believes that have been targeted in this scheme to contact the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations Metro Washington Field Office at (800) 521-5783 to report the crime.