Blog , Health and Wellness

Anatomy of a Scam: Online Prescription Drugs

Posted on Tuesday, December 5, 2023
by Outside Contributor

Sponsored By – Travelers

Still-life of two full pill bottles and a computer mouse against a background of American dollars.

Today, consumers can buy almost anything online, including prescription drugs. Sadly, the online environment that makes these sales more convenient also makes prescription drugs a ripe target for scams. Fraudsters running prescription drug scams seek to access your personal information and bank account and ultimately steal your money.

Scammers have many different ways to commit prescription drug fraud. These range from creating websites for fake businesses that sell cheap medications to offering miracle cures for common ailments like arthritis and depression.

Knowing how these scams work and how to spot them can help protect you and those close to you from being victims.

How Prescription Drug Scams Work

About 60% of American adults take at least one prescription and an increasing number of adults – nearly 50% – have bought prescriptions online for themselves or their loved ones. [1] [2] The convenience and low cost of buying them online are the primary forces behind the growth.

Unfortunately, fraudsters see opportunity in this growth for reasons including:

  • The potential profit from online drug sales.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t have capacity to monitor all websites selling prescription drugs at all times.
  • FDA doesn’t have authority to regulate medications from outside the U.S. [3]

Some examples of prescription scams include: [4, 5]

  • Counterfeit and discounted pricing scams. A fraudster creates a website featuring lower prices for brand-name medications. The victim buys the drugs, but they never arrive. Or worse, they may get sent fake, unregulated and potentially dangerous medicines which could interact negatively with other prescriptions or cause other health issues.
  • Fake cure scams. Fraudsters create sites saying a miracle drug can cure your ailments. But these claims aren’t scientifically proven, and these aren’t FDA-approved medicines. As with the counterfeit and discount pricing scams, “miracle drug” victims order potentially dangerous drugs that could negatively impact their health.

And the risks extend beyond your health. Through the fake site, scammers can also obtain critical personal information, such as name, address and bank account or credit card details.

A Common Example of a Prescription Drug Scam [5, 6]

This is the fictional story of Susan Danvers. Susan purchased medications from an online pharmacy that appeared to be legal, but all she received was a large credit card bill. While just an illustration, this scenario shows how a typical prescription drug scam may play out.

Like many adults in America, Susan relies on prescription drugs to manage her health issues. Recently, her arthritis began flaring up, impacting her daily activities and hobbies. Susan plays an active role in her local garden club, but it was becoming too painful to enjoy.

After a recent appointment, her doctor prescribed a new medicine to help with her symptoms. Susan looked up the drug online to learn more and see if it worked for others. During her search, she found several websites listing this medication for much less than her local pharmacy charges.

Susan, like many others, assumed the FDA monitors all online pharmacies – leading her to believe purchasing online was safe and legal. While browsing one of the sites, which seemed legitimate and professional, she felt the ordering process seemed so convenient. She only needed to fill out a short form and the medicine would arrive a few days later. Additionally, the reduced cost would help lower her monthly bills and she wouldn’t have to drive to the pharmacy.

Susan decided to go ahead and buy the medicine, but it never arrived. When she went back to the site to see what the issue was, she realized there was no listing of a licensed pharmacist to speak with. In fact, the company provided no contact information at all. Later that month, Susan got an alert from her credit card company notifying her she was over her credit limit. The fraudsters went on a shopping spree and maxed out her card.

How to Help Prevent Prescription Drug Scams

Today it doesn’t take much for a scammer to set up a professional-looking website. Sometimes it can be tough to tell the difference between what’s real or fake. But there are things you can do to help lower your chances of being deceived:

  • Check the BeSafeRx program. The FDA’s BeSafeRx website lists every licensed online pharmacy by state. If the site isn’t listed here, then it could be a scam. [7]
  • Don’t fall for false claims. Look for certain phrases that point to a scam, like claims of quick fixes, new discoveries, secret ingredients and miraculous cures. Be especially cautious if these claims are accompanied by a money-back guarantee. [8]
  • Don’t buy from a site that doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription. Properly licensed online pharmacies always need a doctor’s prescription for your drugs. They also have licensed pharmacists on staff to answer questions and provide contact details. [9]
  • Don’t give out personal information. Protect your Medicare number as much as your Social Security number and bank account information. Double-check that an online pharmacy is legitimate before providing personal details.
  • Ask your doctor or local pharmacist. Before taking medicine you bought online from a site not listed on BeSafeRx, consult your doctor or pharmacist. Drugs purchased online could be fake, expired or have an incorrect dosage. Also keep in mind that buying controlled substances online is illegal without a valid prescription from a medical professional. [10]

Guard Your Health and Finances

Fraudsters can get an online pharmacy up and running easily and it only takes a few clicks to fall into their trap. To safeguard your physical and financial health, be vigilant and remember how to spot the signs of prescription drug scams.

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5 months ago

why would anyone trust the FDA on what is safe or legit, Look what they pushed, promoted and told the public about the COVID vaccine as being safe when they knew it was never tested and was not safe and is not nor was ever a vaccine.

5 months ago

Followed the link to the FDA website which leads to a page that has moved then went to the correct page and followed their link to my state (NC), the state page is impossible to navigate and a bureaucratic nightmare. End result, useless. If the FDA want to protect the consumer, they need to make the process easier to navigate.

5 months ago

Yes, the FDA does very little to help the consumer and even can harm him or her… Typical overregulated government agency. We need to be responsible for our own health care choices. And if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is…

Jeannie Huppert
Jeannie Huppert
5 months ago

My suggestion: ; . I would try to get ahold of Clay Clark, whose 2 URLs these are. Some of the speakers at his Time to Free America Tour are approx. 2 dozen practicing physicians, who I would go to “in a heartbeat”, rather than the woke, left, untrustworthy other “physicians”. Some of Time to Free America’s board certified Doctors: Sherri Tenpenney, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio; Dr. Brian Ardis; Dr. Mark Sherwood & wife Dr. Sherwood; Dr. Bartlett; DrStellaMD,com: Dallas? TX; + many more. A lot of these also carry ivermectin & hydroxychloroquin which HEALED Pres. Trump; while biden/obama refused Americans’ access to these 2 successful drugs.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
5 months ago

Oh-oh, does this mean my generic viagra order is a scam?

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