New Scam Alert: Fake FDA Agents

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Those buying their prescription drugs online need to be on the lookout for criminals posing as federal officials.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning Friday about the scam, after a continued international extortion plan has led to another wave of criminals posing as FDA special agents and other law enforcement personnel.

The scam works with criminals calling victims and informing them that purchasing drugs on the Web or over the phone is illegal. The criminals say law enforcement action will be pursued unless a fine or fee ranging from $100 to $250,000 is paid. Usually, victims have purchased drugs via the Internet or "telepharmacies" prior to the call, however, some victims may have had fraudulent transactions placed against their credit cards by the scammer.

The criminals tell these victims to send the “fine” by wire transfer to a designated location, usually in the Dominican Republic. If they refuse, they are threatened with a search of their property, arrest, deportation, physical harm and/or incarceration. However, the FDA cautions, victims should not be persuaded to wire any funds.

“FDA special agents and other law enforcement officials are not authorized to impose or collect criminal fines,” said Dara Corrigan, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, in a press release. “Only a court can take such action.”

If you believe you have been a victim of this scam, contact the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.  Victims should also verify any claims with the FDA directly.

The agency says arrests have been made in relation to the latest wave of this scheme, but expects the scam to continue. To date, no one has impersonated a federal official in person as part of this scheme, although similar impersonation scams occurred in 2008 and 2009.

The FDA further cautioned the public against buying drugs off the Internet. According to the agency, pharmaceutical purchases should only be made from licensed pharmacies based in the U.S. Besides its illegality, purchasing unsafe and ineffective drugs can pose serious health risks and is often a way for scammers to commit identity theft as they use the opportunity to obtain personal information.

Learn the newest scams to avoid in MainStreet’s roundup of the most popular scams of 2010!

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