Igor Artimovich utilized a “botnet” program called Festi, to infect computers all over the globe, turning them into automated spamming servers. His arrest and court appearance has exposed Russia’s shadowy underworld linking spam servers, identity theft, and counterfeit drug criminal organizations.
The ubiquitous “Canadian pharmacy” advertisements that regularly appear in consumer email inboxes seem innocuous enough. Yet the recent court case in Moscow reported by the New York Times reveals how these spam appeals from “Canadian pharmacies” are actually connected to criminal drug gangs in Russia that exploit lax network security and American consumer gullibility to sell dangerous counterfeits to unwitting consumers.
Virus-infected computers throughout the globe generate the millions of fake online pharmacy spam emails sent daily. Efforts by Operation Pangea VI, a global week of action by law enforcement to shut down fake Internet pharmacy sites, shuttered many of the website urls associated with these spam attacks, reports the FDA. Yet a quick check of one’s email inbox will show just how quickly these sites resume their spamming activities.
The danger to consumers posed by these bogus pharmacy ads is manifold. Of primary concern is the fact that any website offering drugs for sale without a prescription is violating Federal law and FDA regulations, reports the FDA. Additionally, Allspammedup.com describes how consumers who purchased from spam-advertised fake online pharmacies were also subject to theft of credit card, and personal information, as well as exposing their computers and those of their online contacts to malware attacks, and system infection.
The FDA is even warning consumers that fake online pharmacy criminals are even going so far as to extort money from consumers who have used their sites by posing as FDA agents or Federal law enforcement personnel. The fake agents call the victims and inform them that “purchasing drugs over the Internet or the telephone is illegal, and that law enforcement action will be pursued unless a fine or fee ranging from $100 to $250,000 is paid. Victims often also have fraudulent transactions placed against their credit cards.”
Consumers can safeguard themselves from compromising their health and their personal information by learning how to recognize licensed, VIPPS-approved online pharmacies and only making prescription drug purchases from trusted sites. By learning to save money safely online, consumers can protect themselves from counterfeit drugs and the criminals that sell them.