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Officials Issue Warning About Online Prescription Drug Scam

PITTSBURGH (CBS) -- With so many online pharmacies, ordering prescription medication over the Internet has become a common practice.

So why are some people supposedly being targeted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and accused of buying drugs illegally?

Picture this — the phone rings, on the other end is an alleged agent from the DEA who claims to be conducting an investigation.

They inform you that since 1999 it has been illegal to buy prescription medication online, even though millions of people have been ordering their drugs over the Internet for some time.

"My drug plan makes it cheaper to order online," Roberta, a customer, said.

So what would the DEA want with someone like Jen Levinson?

"I thought to myself, what did I do?" she said.

Levinson said the alleged agent threatened her with a warrant for her arrest if she didn't pay a hefty fine.

"I was a little nervous," she admitted.

What she didn't know was that the caller was a complete fraud.

"A DEA agent will never contact a member of the public and request a fine or money," DEA special agent John Wilson said.

Wilson is an actual agent with the the DEA. He said this is just the latest scam.

"Typically, somebody will call an individual representing that they're a DEA agent. Usually, these people have purchased pharmaceuticals either by telephone or on a website, and they'll tell the person that it's illegal to do so and that they need to pay a fine to the government," he said.

Sound familiar?

"I used to get the IRS, same thing, I'm going to jail or whatever," Barbara Frankel said.

To date, nearly half a million people have been taken by phony IRS agents demanding money for alleged back taxes.

"All of us have gotten so many calls," Carol Landman said.

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As more and more people catch on to these types of scams, Wilson said the criminals are getting more clever — claiming to be from a variety of government agencies, from the DEA to the FDA.

"You just have to be smart and know what's going on, and if you don't know you ask," Roberta said.

Remember, no government agency will call you on the phone with a legitimate problem. They will contact you by mail.

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