The FDA is now worried about the extortion scam for which they received reports in November 2009. The FDA has been warning the public that there are criminals posing as FDA special agents as well as other law enforcement agents such as DEA, FBI, U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Customs Service. The criminals have targeted victims that purchase their prescription drugs over the internet or “telepharmacies.” They believe that the scam started out as a theft of consumers’ personal information.
“The criminals inform the victims that purchasing drugs over the internet or the telephone is illegal, and that law enforcement action will be pursued unless a fine or fee ranging from $100 to $250,000 is paid.” In addition to these fines, victims might find that there are fraudulent transactions placed against their credit cards, the FDA said. (1)
The FDA also has explained that consumers should be aware that although phone calls appear to be from numbers located in the U.S., they are actually voice-over-the-internet-protocol numbers or even cell phones. (2)
“Impersonating an FDA official is a violation of federal law,” said MichaelIt was also explained to the public that FDA special agents are not authorized to impose criminal fines. This type of action can only be taken through the court system and the fines are paid to the U.S. Treasury. The FDA also explained that they are working with various agencies to find the impersonators and will actively pursue criminal charges.
Chappell, the FDA’s acting Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs.
“The public should note that no FDA official will ever contact a consumer
by phone demanding money or any other form of payment.” (3)
In summary, what you should watch out for:
- A phone call from someone identifying themself as an FDA official or other law enforcement personnel
- The phone call appears to be a U.S. number
- The caller is requesting credit card information, or a wire transfer (to the Dominican Republic) to pay for fines related to purchasing drugs over the internet
- The caller may have a Hispanic accent
- Refuse all demands; be aware that the impersonators may threaten with property searches, arrest, etc.
- Call the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations Metro Washington Field Office at 800-521-5783 to report the crime.