Take Action: Protect Patients from Online Scams With Domain Name Reform

Re-open access to WHOIS contact information; require that domain name sellers lock and suspend suspicious websites


Patients who search for medicine online often end up on fake online pharmacy websites because 95% of online pharmacies are unsafe.  These companies buy the names of their websites from domain name sellers. Hisorically, many of domain name sellers have let illicit businesses continue to use their domain names, even when the name implies illegal activity, violates terms of use, or sells opioids or COVID-19 “cures.” This puts lives at risk, especially in a public health emergency when millions are relying on the internet for healthcare information, products, and services.

These companies also maintain contact information for registered domain names in a database called WHOIS. Until 2018, investigators used WHOIS to track down cybercriminals, but in the last two years access to WHOIS has been radically limited in response to EU privacy laws and other policy changes. The result is that authorities cannot find and prosecute those selling fraudulent products on websites.

Current Status:

At the end of February 2020, Representative Bob Latta (R-OH) has introduced HR875, a resolution aimed at safeguarding access to WHOIS information for law enforcement and the public. HR875 states that “domain name registration information, referred to as ‘WHOIS’ information, is critical to the protection of the United States national and economic security, intellectual property rights enforcement, cybersecurity, as well as the health, safety, and privacy of its citizens, and should remain readily accessible.”

What you can do:

On May 8, 2020, The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) wrote Congressional leaders in the House and Senate urging  them to take extra measures in the next health and stimulus package to protect the American public from online COVID-19 scams. PSM asked that they require domain name sellers to suspend and lock websites that facilitate COVID-19 and other health fraud, and re-open registration information so that law enforcement can pursue criminals using websites to take advantage of the public.

Lend your voice to this campaign. Share our one-pager about domain name reform to help others understand why this is important. TEXT STOPSCAM to 52886 to send a letter to your members of Congress, or submit your letter here.

Background / resources


Stories about counterfeit drugs and online crime

Pennsylvania Pharmacist Sentenced for Passing Imported, Misbranded Drugs Off As FDA-Approved

November 2, 2017

Four years after pleading guilty in 2013, a Pennsylvania pharmacist has been sentenced to 6 months of home detention and three years probation after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to smuggle foreign drugs in the United States and money laundering.

Costa Rican Man Stands Accused of Running Fake Online Pharmacy

September 7, 2017

Quesada was originally indicted in October 2015. He allegedly used his websites to sell medication to unsuspecting U.S. patients that were unaware they were buying misbranded and counterfeit prescription drugs manufactured in India.

Lester Holt of NBC News Finds Fentanyl for Sale Online After 5-Minute Search

August 29, 2017

In a television report for NBC Nightly News, Lester Holt and his investigative team were able to find Chinese-made, bulk fentanyl powder for sale on the Internet after searching for “buy fentanyl” online. When his crew sent an enquiry email to one of the listed sellers, they responded: “Hello, We have a very potent fentanyl…

Woman Left with Heart Condition from Fake Diet Pills Bought Online

July 3, 2017

Many people struggle to lose weight, and under a doctor’s supervision, diet pills can be a safe and effective way to reach your goal. Some people, like Elna Baker, are so afraid of regaining the weight that they continue taking the pills by purchasing them while in other countries or ordering them from online pharmacies. While…

North Carolina Secretary of State Wants You to Know about the Dangers Posed by Fake Online Pharmacies

June 12, 2017

In a new program for North Carolina, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall has set up a public awareness campaign for her state that allows North Carolinians to check whether the online pharmacy they want to purchase from is genuine, the News & Observer reports. Dubbed “Verify Before you Buy,” the new program aims to protect…

Affordable Prescription Drug Options Already Exist in Your Town

March 10, 2017

Americans have been talking about saving money on medicine by importing drugs from Canada for years and circulating price comparison tables to prove their point. In the past few days, this graphic has been making the rounds; The Partnership for Safe Medicines staff wondered whether these prices were accurate, and so we checked them by…

Fake Online Pharmacy Owner Sentenced to 8 Years in Prison

February 10, 2017

Juan Gallinal, a former Virginia police officer, acted as the head of a Florida conspiracy that used a valid brick-and-mortar pharmacy as a cover for series of fake pharmacy websites that sold misbranded and addictive drugs. The owner of a fake online pharmacy business in Florida has been sentenced to eight years in prison, the…

Two Louisiana Men Sentenced for Filling Orders for a Fake Online Pharmacy Scam

January 24, 2017

The two men acted as U.S. distributors for a series of Thailand-based fake online pharmacy websites that sold imported and non-FDA approved medication to U.S. consumers. Troy Tapia and Anthony Rouse III of Louisiana have each been sentenced to three years probation after pleading guilty to fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering,…

Two Louisiana Residents Sentenced in Fake Online Pharmacy Case

January 23, 2017

Troy Tapia and Anthony Rouse III of Louisiana have each been sentenced to three years in prison for acting as drop-shippers for a Thailand-based fake online pharmacy operation. Each man pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. Rouse and Tapia fulfilled U.S. orders from Thai…

Pakistani Fake Internet Pharmacy Owners Sentenced in Federal Court

December 5, 2016

Pair that were arrested in London in October 2012 for operating a fake online pharmacy that sold to U.S. consumers plead guilty and are sentenced. Pakistani fake online pharmacy entrepreneurs Sheikh Waseem Ul Haq and Tahir Saeed have been sentenced to time served after pleading guilty to 48 counts, including “conspiracy to import Schedule II,…

Tell Congress to kick COVID-19 scammers off the Internet!

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