The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned the public that criminals are posing as law enforcement agents to extort money from people who purchased medication online.

Criminals are calling victims and identifying themselves as FDA or other law enforcement officials. The imposters inform the victims that purchasing drugs over the Internet or the telephone is illegal and that they will be prosecuted for this crime unless they pay a fine ranging from $100 to $250,000.

In addition, victims also have suffered from unauthorized purchases on their credit cards.

Pills

Picture by sfxeric via Flickr.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned the public that criminals are posing as law enforcement agents to extort money from people who purchased medication online.

Criminals are calling victims and identifying themselves as FDA or other law enforcement officials. The imposters inform the victims that purchasing drugs over the Internet or the telephone is illegal and that they will be prosecuted for this crime unless they pay a fine ranging from $100 to $250,000.

In most instances, victims of extortion-related calls have also received telephone solicitations for drug purchases from other possibly related, illegal entities located overseas. In addition, victims also have suffered from unauthorized purchases on their credit cards.

Extortionists are using customer lists, presumably provided by online pharmacies, to contact their victims. The information provided in these lists includes personal information, Social Security numbers and credit card account numbers.

The criminals always demand that the payment be sent by wire transfer, usually in the Dominican Republic. If the victim refuses, the imposter threatens search, arrest, deportation, physical hard and incarceration.

“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.”

Says the FDA, “The FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, with the support of various U.S. Attorneys, are pursuing multiple national and international criminal investigations. Arrests have been made and additional prosecutions are pending; however, the scheme is likely to continue.”

In addition to the threats and extortion, some drugs purchased by the victims have been found to be fake: some have been found to contain trace amounts of heroin, other undisclosed and potentially harmful active pharmaceutical ingredients, or no active ingredient at all.

More about the warning can be found on the FDA website.