FDA Warns of Extortion Scam by Fake Agents

CBS/istock.com

Extortionists posing as FDA agents are targeting customers of online and over-the-phone pharmacies, demanding victims pay cash fines or else face law enforcement action, the FDA warned today.

To perpetrate the ongoing international scam, the criminals call victims and tell them they are being fined for illegally purchasing drugs over the internet or over the phone. Unless the victim pays a fine ranging from $100 to $250,000, the scammers say, legal action will be pursued.

Victims are ordered to immediately wire money to a certain location, often in the Dominican Republic. If they refuse to pay up, they are threatened with "search of their property, arrest, deportation, physical harm and/or incarceration", according to the FDA press release.

The FDA told CBS News they don't yet know how many people have been targeted by the scam, but said they are pursuing multiple domestic and international criminal investigations.

"Impersonating an FDA official is a violation of federal law," Dara Corrigan, FDA's associate commissioner for regulatory affairs said in press release today. "FDA special agents and other law enforcement officials are not authorized to impose or collect criminal fines."

This is not the first time the FDA has warned the public about scammers posing as federal agents; the agency sent out a similar warning in 2008 and another in 2009.

The FDA encourages anyone who believes they have been a victim of a phone scam to contact the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations.

  • Emily Rand

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