The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning the public about criminals posing as FDA special agents and other law enforcement personnel as part of a continued international extortion scam.
This particular scam targets consumers who purchase drugs via “telepharmacies” or the Internet. Identifying themselves as FDA agents or other law enforcement officials, callers tell victims that their purchases are illegal and further legal action will be taken unless a fine — ranging from $100 to $250,000 — is paid by wire transfer.
“Impersonating an FDA official is a violation of federal law,” said Dara Corrigan, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “FDA special agents and other law enforcement officials are not authorized to impose or collect criminal fines. Only a court can take such action.”
Names of victims are taken from personal information provided through previous transactions, and are also used for additional solicitations for pharmaceutical products, usually from overseas. The criminals make it appear as though their phone calls originate in the United States. Multiple national and international criminal investigations are underway.
Victims who have suffered monetary loss or have received a phone call from anyone claiming to be an FDA or other law enforcement official seeking money to avoid legal action regarding purchase of pharmaceuticals are encouraged to contact the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations and clicking “Report Suspected Criminal Activity.”
Always verify claims from official agencies.
- When contacted by phone, get the person’s name, agency, and contact information. Then contact the agency directly to confirm.
- If you receive anything on official agency letterhead, verify its authenticity by contacting that organization directly via a publicly available phone number.
- If you receive government website links via email, type the address directly in the address bar of your web browser. Remember, all federal agencies use email addresses with a .gov email and website extension.
The FDA also cautions that pharmaceutical products offered online or by telephone sources of unknown origin sometimes contain undisclosed and harmful ingredients, or no active ingredient at all — and your personal information may be compromised.
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