Criminals posing as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) employees are forging warning letters targeting individuals who tried to purchase medicines online or over the phone, the FDA has warned.
The FDA are concerned that these fake warning letters are linked to an international extortion scam, based on their experience with criminals posing as FDA agents. The agency explained that they do not generally issue warning letters to individuals who purchase medicines online.
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"While warning letters are a common compliance tool used by the FDA, we typically send them directly to companies and individuals involved in the manufacturing or distribution of FDA-regulated products," said FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb. "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."
The FDA became aware of the scammers through its surveillance efforts which found that instead of receiving the drug products consumers had attempted to purchase from a website or over the phone, they received an official-looking, but fake, warning letter. These claimed to be sent from the FDA and/or the Federal Trade Commission, purporting that the FDA had discovered that there were drug violations based on a review of their parcel and their social media accounts.
The FDA linked the warning letters to consumers' use of illegal online pharmacies, many of which lack the adequate safeguards to protect personal and financial information and some which intentionally misuse consumers' personal information. The FDA also noted that "in addition to being the target of scams like these, consumers who buy medicines from illegal online pharmacies may be putting their health at risk. The products purchased from illegal online pharmacies, while marketed as authentic, may be counterfeit, contaminated, expired or otherwise unsafe."