All seniors know how expensive prescription drugs can be and how fast those bills can add up. Millions of seniors are on a fixed budget, so it is no wonder that thousands of seniors every year can not afford the medications they need. Many seek alternative less costly options, which can lead them to counterfeit drug scams.
Counterfeit drug scams impact thousands of seniors every year. Fake medicine scams can involve financial costs at best and be deadly at worst. And now more than ever, counterfeit drug scams are at an all-time new high.
With online shopping being a convenient and often more economical way to get prescription drugs, many have turned to online pharmacies for their medications. Unfortunately, criminals often view this as an excellent opportunity to make money.
Some of the scams involving counterfeit drugs offer new cures and others provide cheaper knock-off brands, both of which can be fatal. Some of the medications sold may do nothing at all, so you though they will not directly harm you; you are also not taking the drugs you need to stay healthy. And other medicines, especially those with big promises, may contain harmful substances that can make you sick.
There are a few different methods scammers use to steal money from their victims. This article will cover how to safely buy medications online, the four major counterfeit drug scams, how to avoid them, and when to report these scams, along with who you should report the scams to.
Top 4 Counterfeit Drug Scams
- Non-Licensed Online Pharmacies
- Fake FDA Letters
- Fake Medicine
- Phishing Emails
Non-Licensed Online Pharmacies
The number one way to avoid counterfeit drug scams is to avoid working with non-licensed online pharmacies. Non-licensed online pharmacies carry multiple risks, such as selling counterfeit drugs, selling personal information, and lacking proper online security.
The primary reason you should never order from a non-licensed online pharmacy is that it can be dangerous to your health. The company may sell you medications that are expired and no longer effective. Just imagine taking expired heart medication, it could literally be deadly.
Also, some counterfeit drugs do not contain the active ingredients in your regular prescription drugs, even though they advertise it as the same medication, just a “generic” brand. Or they may sell medicines under the brand name you are familiar with but replace the drugs with a sub-par option.
And some non-licensed online pharmacies have set up websites without proper internet security, making it easy for scammers to steal your personal information such as credit card numbers. Additionally, some scammers involved in selling counterfeit drugs also sell your personal information to other criminals.
Finally, when working with a non-licensed online pharmacy you are also likely not working with a group that’s hired a licensed pharmacist who can:
- Help answer questions
- Provide proper drug consults
- Warn against drug interactions
Fake FDA Letters
People ordering their medications from online pharmacies, often ones that are not licensed, have been receiving fake letters from the FDA. These letters state something to the effect that the FDA has determined that there is a drug violation based on a review of the item ordered and the FDA’s findings on the consumer’s social media account.
The letters even go as far as stating that the FDA is still investigating the order and delivery of the medication. And that they, the FDA, will take legal steps if necessary depending on their findings. These letters have been part of a massive international extortion scam.
Though not all of the letters are addressed to Sir/Madam, many are, which is a red flag that the letter claiming to be from the FDA is not legitimate. However, if they were able to obtain your personal information from a non-licensed pharmacy or hacked into a licensed pharmacy, it may be addressed to you personally.
However, the FDA warns that though they do send out letters, they do so to manufacturers or distributors and never to the end-user. They also request that if you do receive one of these letters that you scan and email them the letter at FDAInternetPharmacyTaskForce-CDER@fda.hhs.gov.
Fake medicine comes in several forms. As mentioned above, scammers running illegitimate online pharmacies may sell drugs under the right name. Still, they may not be the right medication or maybe expired pills, but that is just two of the ways scammers prey on seniors.
Another and one of the most popular fake medicine scams is the one that the manufacturer makes fake claims of being able to cure diseases, illnesses, or prevent aging. Instead of receiving a miracle drug, you might end up with a sugar pill or, worse, a drug containing harmful chemicals.
Finally, scammers pushing counterfeit drugs will often promote drugs found overseas for less money. These companies will make claims that because you are buying from the manufacturing source, you get around the high prices by buying direct.
Drugs sold from foreign companies making this claim are often a scam. Never buy your medications online from pharmacies abroad. The risk of recieving counterfeit pills is much too high.
To best avoid these counterfeit medicine scams follow the below tips:
- Never order pills from a non-licensed pharmacy
- Never order medications from out of the country
- Always consult your physician before taking new drugs or supplements
- Always take the time to research the pharmacy you order your medicines from
Phishing emails are sent by cybercriminals looking to steal your personal information like:
- Social Security number
- Credit card number
- Bank account information
These emails appear to come from credible sources, like with the FDA scam we mentioned earlier. Cybercriminals use emails to send those communications regarding the medications you may have ordered.
Or a non-licensed pharmacy will send out an email offering a coupon or discount if you order your next prescription from them. Or maybe it’s for a miracle drug that eliminates the associated with rheumatoid arthritis, all they ask is that you pay shipping and handling to get a free sample.
But what really ends up happening in all these situations is that you are getting scammed twice, first, by ordering their false products, or following up on the fake FDA claims. And second, you end up with malware installed on your computer without your knowledge.
Malware is malicious software that acts as a spy for the criminal, stealing all of your personal information. Essentially, phishing emails for counterfeit drugs are the ultimate double whammy.
To best avoid these scams, never click on the link provided in the email, as that is how the malware is installed. Instead, delete the email immediately, and if you are curious about the company or medication, use your internet search engine to locate the company’s website and not the link provided.
How to Safely Buy Medication Online
Purchasing medications, be it prescription or over the counter, is a lot easier to do from the comfort of your home. And with the risk of COVID-19 exposure, online shopping has become even more popular.
However, though it may seem the safest and best way to get your medicine, buying medicine online can have dire consequences, so it is critical you follow proper safety guidelines.
First, take the time to research the pharmacy to ensure they are licensed. You should be able to find their state license information on their website. The pharmacy website should also list the address for where the pharmacy is located and their contact information. Also, take the time to verify the pharmacy at Safe Pharmacy, a website designed to help consumers avoid drug scams.
Second, and most importantly, make sure they require a prescription. Pharmacies that don’t require a valid prescription are not where you want to buy your medications. Also, an online questionnaire does not replace the need for a prescription and is instead a red flag that it is not a licensed pharmacy.
Third, know and recognize the warning signs that the online pharmacy is not trustworthy:
- Drastically reduced prices on medications
- Offers medications that make exaggerated promises for providing a cure for illnesses or diseases
- Shipping prescriptions from foreign countries
- Not having a pharmacist on hand to answer questions
Who and When to Report Counterfit Drug Scams
You should report any suspected scam immediately, even if you did not get involved. However, if you think you have been scammed, you must report it as soon as possible.
If you suspect a website or email of offering counterfeit medications, you should email your concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you receive an email or letter impersonating the FDA email FDAInternetPharmacyTaskForce-CDER@fda.hhs.gov.