The Food and Drug Administration is warning people who have purchased drugs online about fraudsters posing as FDA agents or other law enforcement officials attempting to extort money.
The criminals call the victims -- who in most cases previously purchased drugs over the Internet or via "telepharmacies" -- and identify themselves as FDA special agents or other law enforcement officials. The criminals inform the victims 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.
The criminals always request the money be sent by wire transfer to a designated location, usually in the Dominican Republic. If victims refuse to send money, they are often threatened with a search of their property, arrest, deportation, physical harm and/or 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."