DEA Scam Alert

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In one of the most blatant scams around, the DEA is warning that telephone conmen are stealing their identity and using social engineering tricks to fleece the public.

It works like this: Those who have been purchasing pharmaceuticals online are contacted by phone. Someone identifying themselves as a DEA agent informs them that such purchases are illegal and threatens an arrest. With this as the context, the caller then is told they can pay a fine to avoid further action. A more sophisticated version will just get personal and financial information which will then be used to extract money from the victim.

The psychology is powerful. According to the DEA press release, purchasing drugs online (or mail order) is often illegal, depending on how the prescription was generated and state laws in effect. Those who are called may know or suspect they are on the wrong side of the law. Paying a “fine” seems like an easy out in that situation.

The DEA states that impersonating a federal officer is a felony and agents never call the public to solicit funds. If you are called in this type of scam, they encourage you to get as much information as possible -- without giving your credit card number or bank information -- and let them know. They are very interested in prosecuting the scammers.

Legitimate online and mail order operations do exist, but pharmacies operating this way have to be registered with the DEA and meet all state requirements. This is true for narcotics as well as other drugs. Customers of online pharmacies, especially those doing business from overseas, are cautioned that counterfeit or expired medications are another hazard. The best remedy is to only do business locally or with a provider vetted by your insurance company.

Those most vulnerable to this scam are the elderly (who may be legitimately getting drugs through the mail) and those who are seeking a source of prescription drugs to feed an addiction.

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