Getty: Congressional Quarterly / Contributor

Here's how you can avoid being scammed.

Zee Krstic
July 16, 2018

The Food and Drug Administration is warning people of a scam that tries to scare people who fill their medical prescriptions online into giving their money or personal information.

Last week, the FDA said scam artists are posing as government officials issuing fake look-alike warning letters from the agency, accusing shoppers of potential violations of the law and asking consumers to stay quiet while they're "investigated," USA Today reports.

“We know that at least three dozen consumers have been contacted and have received these warning letters,” FDA Spokeswoman Lyndsay Meyer told USA Today. She said that the federal agency is now investigating what is believed to be an extortion scam on an international level, but Meyer didn't reveal any victims’ names thus far.

The FDA has received more than three dozen complaints about the fake letter from Americans over the last few weeks. According to Bloomberg, the fake letters look and feel quite real—they bear the correct logo and contact information, and they also have customers' financial information plainly listed in writing.

More on the FDA:

The fake letters ask victims to respond with further information and also urges them to not contact any officials, threatening "legal steps" should the sender hear of “any suspicious activity from your end," Bloomberg reports.

But Meyer says these letters should easily raise eyebrows, since they use incorrect grammar and odd word phrasing. The quickest way to avoid being a victim of the scam is somewhat simple: Don't buy medication or prescription drugs online from any third party.

“This scam associated with these purchases is not uncommon, however a scam of this nature where sending state warning letters is unique,” Meyer told USA Today. “We have always warned that buying medicines online from illegal online pharmacies or people who are unlicensed to sell medicine carry a number of risks."

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb set the record straight on whether or not customers shopping for medication online should ever pay attention to FDA correspondence. “Consumers who aren’t involved in manufacturing or distributing FDA regulated products should be on alert that if you get an FDA warning letter, it’s probably fake, and probably a scam,” he wrote in an official statement. Generally, the FDA doesn't take this type of action against a single shopper—even if they knew the online site from which they purchased from is legal or not.

Back in 2015, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy reviewed more than 11,000 websites selling prescription medications—they found that more than 95 percent of these sites weren't in check with current laws and safety standards. If anything, this scam teaches us all that when it comes to prescription medicine, staying off the internet is best.

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