Ever bought medicine online? Keep an ear out for a call from the Food and Drug Administration. Or somebody pretending to be the FDA, anyway…
Someone will call you and identify him or herself as an FDA special agent or another kind of law enforcement official. You’ll be told that purchasing drugs over the Internet or telephone is illegal and be threatened with prosecution unless a fine or fee—ranging from $100 to $250,000—is paid. If you refuse to pay up, the caller threatens to search your properties, arrest or deport you, put you in jail, and even physically harm you.
The agency says this has happened hundreds of times since 2008. People buying online are unwittingly placing their personal information in the hands of criminals, opening themselves up to this kind of scam. Once one website has your info, they might share it on a list with others.
“These lists can contain tens of thousands of names and a great deal of self-reported information,” the FDA says, “including names, addresses, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, purchase histories and credit card account numbers.”
The FDA says to hang up and consider changing your phone number. The real FDA can’t fine you for criminal acts – only a court can. The site also has tips on finding more reputable sites for medications.