Have you ever ordered medicine from questionable online pharmacies? Many folks use these alternative pharmacies because of their extremely cheap prices and the convenience they provide.
But are you sure they are safe? Aside from putting your information and your health at risk, these illegal online pharmacies can also put you in the crosshairs of extortion email scams.
Read on and learn more about the latest round of scary letters that the FDA is warning everyone about.
Fake FDA Warning Letters
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning the public about impostors who are forging FDA warning letters and sending them to people who tried to buy medicine from illegal online pharmacies.
The FDA said that instead of receiving the medicine they attempted to buy online or over the phone, targeted individuals are receiving official-looking but fake warning letters about drug violations.
If you do receive any of these fake letters, they will claim that based on a review of your social media accounts and the package that is being shipped to you, the FDA has determined that you have indeed committed drug violations.
The letters are commonly addressed to a generic “Sir/Ma’am” but may even include a specific name. Don’t be fooled! Since these fake online pharmacies may already have your name, address and maybe even your credit card details, it’s not a stretch to think that they’re misusing your data.
Although the letters don’t demand money (for now), they do warn that “we are still investigating the root of this delivery & necessary legal steps will be taken if we found [sic] out any suspicious activity on your end.”
The FDA is still investigating this matter but it believes that it could be a part of an international extortion scam.
Nope – Not from the FDA
The FDA said while they do send out warning letters to companies and individuals who are involved in the manufacturing or distribution of FDA-regulated products, they don’t send them directly to consumers.
“Consumers who aren’t involved in manufacturing or distributing FDA regulated products should be on alert that if you get an FDA warning letter, it’s probably fake, and probably a scam,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb explained in an official statement.
The agency also said that they don’t generally take action against people for purchasing medicine online. However, they do regularly take action against the operators of these illegal pharmacies.
To help stop this scam, the FDA is urging any consumer who has received a fake warning letter to email FDAInternetPharmacyTaskForce-CDER@fda.hhs.gov with details about the letter and its packaging, including photos or scans.
Stay away from illegal online pharmacies
The FDA also said that getting victimized by scams like this is not the only danger when you purchase medicine from illegal online pharmacies.
First, the products bought from these shops may be counterfeit, contaminated, or expired, putting your health at risk.
Secondly, most illegal online pharmacies don’t have sufficient cybersecurity safeguards to protect your sensitive information from data breaches. Some may even be deliberately misusing your data by selling it to scammers and fraudsters!
With your real name, address, email and financial information at their disposal, they can send you more extortion and scam emails or even charge you with products that you never purchased.
How to spot an illegal online pharmacy
Buying medication online from fly-by-night online shops can be enticing since they tempt you with cheaper prices and they usually don’t require a prescription.
However, you are putting your health, your bank account and your identity at risk so please avoid them at all costs.
To be safe, keep your eye out for online pharmacies that:
- Allow you to buy prescription medicine without a valid prescription.
- Offer extremely low prices that are too good to be true.
- Do not have an available U.S. state-licensed pharmacist to answer any questions.
- Are not located in the U.S.
- Offer worldwide shipments.
- Appear on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s List of Not Recommended Websites. (However, not being on this list doesn’t mean that an online pharmacy is safe. New shops appear every time).
- Are NOT licensed by your state board of pharmacy, or equivalent state agency. (Please check your state board of pharmacy to verify the licensing status of the pharmacy).
- Do NOT have the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites Seal (VIPPS). This seal means that an online pharmacy has met state licensure requirements and it is safe to use.