If you’ve ever bought prescriptions online, be aware of possible scam

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

“He was starting to get under my hide,” says 65-year-old Pauline from Nampa, of the caller claiming to be a DEA agent.

Thomas J. Gormam, DEA investigator, out of Detroit, Mich. Badge No. 101525, soon found out that he’d dialed the wrong number. Not that he wasn’t trying to reach the Pauline and her daughter, but that his scam was not going to work here. (Phone number – 313-355-8134)

Identifying himself as a DEA agent, he told the victims the agency had completed an investigation in to people who were buying drugs over the lnternet or by telephone. And, so, Pauline did confess that her daughter had bought diet pills from a pharmacy online, but that was nearly four years ago.

“He said, ‘We just shut down an illegal pharmacy, and just shut down the factory. The DEA has two orders of diet pills she’d ordered,'” Pauline says.

With her daughter in tears, the fraud continued. It’s been almost a year since the Drug Enforcement Administration first warned the public about criminals posing as DEA special agents or other law enforcement personnel as part of an international extortion scheme. The DEA says it has received calls from more than 2,000 victims. The agency estimates there are many more people who fell or almost fell for the scam that they don’t know about.

And while the extortion calls continue, they are eerie in the fact they knew Pauline had shopped online at this pharmacy.

Pauline said she’d read reports in October of how police and investigators worldwide closed 18,000 online pharmacy sites, in what has become the largest-ever clampdown on criminal gangs selling unauthorized medicines online.

Mr. Gormam had the hook in. He told Pauline that since her daughter had a clean record, he could work something out.

“First thing off the bat; there was only one way to save herself, either pay the fine rather than go to court or jail,” she says. “As soon as he said ‘a fine,’ I said I’m really not comfortable talking to you over the phone, so I’d rather go through our Boise office.”

That’s when the man’s voice changed, and he became threatening. Stating that she’d better be ready, because within half an hour, he’d be there to arrest her daughter.

“How could an agent for DEA decide that it would only be a penalty?” she asks.

In most cases, the impersonators instruct their victims to pay the “fine” via wire transfer to a designated location, usually overseas, according to a DEA release. If victims refuse to send money, the impersonators often threaten to arrest them or search their property. Some victims who bought their drugs using a credit card also reported fraudulent use of their credit cards.

Pauline says it never got as far as that because she saw right through the imposter’s pitch.

The agency posted a warning on its website, with a clear understanding: DEA agents will never contact the public by telephone or email to demand money or any other form of payment.

If you buy pharmacy drugs over the Internet, BBB reminds users to :

  • use caution when purchasing any pharmaceuticals by telephone or through the Internet.
  • use pharmacies that are registered with the DEA to sell controlled substance pharmaceuticals by Internet.
  • remember there are risks of receiving unsafe, counterfeit, and/or ineffective drugs from outside the U.S.
  • safeguard personal and financial information.

If you get a telephone call from someone claiming to be a DEA special agent or other law enforcement official seeking money hangup and report the threat: 877-792-2873

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1 Comment

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One response to “If you’ve ever bought prescriptions online, be aware of possible scam

  1. Mark Burrows

    Again, being a Canadian, you might suggest I am out of my league, but in a way I am not. I am a trained psychologist, one of the fields I worked in was criminal psychology and using the guise of authority is in all senses an act of terrorism. In this case it is domestic terrorism. Now, here in Canada it is different, we basically only have on police force that handles everything from protecting the leader of the country down to policing small towns that can not afford their own municipal police. They also have total jurisdiction over municipal police. Of course you know them as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. If any of them screw up and try to cause mischief, they always get caught. They have so many inside secret forces that absolutely no one knows about, we simply know they exist to protect us from both crime and authority.
    In the case of the United States where there are more departments of law enforcement, the easiest solution would be to call one of the others to report your concern. If it is someone claiming to be the DEA, call the FBI. If I understand what I have read, and I read a lot, the DEA aren’t the type to make phone calls, they are more likely to knock on or down your door if you refuse to answer it. As I said before, using the guise of authority is an act or terrorism and extortion only amplifies that. Something of this nature should have been immediately reported to a higher authority so someone could come in and put a trace on the telephone line and check the previous calls. Not all criminals are clever. In truth the majority of them are caught because they think that just bravado and intimidation is all that is needed to make quick cash.

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