The DEA Scam
How it works:
This extortion scam targets anyone who may have ordered or reimported prescription medication from other countries (usually purchased over the telephone or internet). In most cases, such practices constitute a violation of US law. The foreign drug market is driven in part by the high cost of prescription medication in the US paired with rising rates of prescription drug abuse. Despite its illegality, a vast number of people have obtained prescription medication in this manner. Prosecution is relatively infrequent in these cases, yet these consumers have unwittingly placed themselves at risk for fraud and extortion.
This scam starts with a phone call from a person claiming to be a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) or impersonating another member of law enforcement. The scammer informs the victim that purchasing prescription drugs from foreign markets is illegal and that the victim is facing criminal charges. The victim is told that they can pay a “fine” via wire transfer (usually several thousand dollars) in order to avoid prosecution. The scheme can be quite elaborate and convincing. For example, the victim may be transferred to speak with a DEA supervisor in order to get authorization to pay the fine.
This scam targets people with a guilty conscience who understandably want to avoid the embarrassment and legal costs associated with a criminal arrest. By the time the victim figures out the truth, they may have paid multiple “fines”. Unfortunately, the wired money is typically picked up in a foreign country and is unrecoverable. Further complicating these investigations is that victims may be reluctant to report this crime to the police because they fear that they will be prosecuted by the real authorities.
What to do:
Do not order pharmaceutical medications from unknown providers or businesses, even if they appear legitimate online. Consumers ordering medications from outside the US may receive unsafe, counterfeit, or ineffective drugs. Furthermore, personal and financial information could be compromised and may expose the consumer to financial victimization or scams like the one described above.
Do not under any circumstances wire money, provide a credit card number, or give electronic access to your checking account in order to pay a criminal fine! Criminal fines are typically levied through a court of law, not the telephone.
Do report any financial loss to the Darien Police Department. In most instances, the police department’s foremost concern is your financial loss.
report any telephone or email communication where money is sought by a person claiming to be a DEA Special Agent, even if you were not victimized
. To report this scam, call the DEA’s Prescription Abuse and Extortion Hotline at 1-877-792-2873, or report the incident online