HOUSTON—District Attorney Devon Anderson on Monday warned the public about an international extortion scam that is now targeting Harris County residents. Criminals posing as DEA agents are calling people who have previously purchased prescription drugs or herbal supplements over the internet. The caller tells the targeted victim that purchasing drugs on-line is illegal and they will need to pay a “fine”.
“These criminals are using the name of a federal agency to blackmail innocent consumers,” said Anderson. “This scam is something we’ve heard about from other parts of the country but now we’re hearing about it right here in Harris County.”
District Attorney Investigators say the operators of the internet pharmacies sell names and phone numbers to criminals who then begin to extort money from the purchaser, by demanding the fake administrative penalties.
“The scam has existed for as long as there have been internet pharmacies. The operators of these internet pharmacies often coordinate with the scam artists in an attempt to extort fines,” said Michael Nolan, Harris County District Attorney Investigator, Organized Crime Division. “We began to hear sporadic reporting from victims this year. But because these complaints can be routed to several different divisions within the DA’s Office, I can’t accurately predict the number of victims that currently exist.”
It is illegal to order pharmaceuticals online when you have not established a doctor-patient relationship and it is illegal to receive the medicine without a valid medical purpose. When consumers order pharmaceuticals on-line, they not only risk receiving counterfeit and ineffective drugs from criminals but also compromise their personal and financial information.
The DA’s Office and the DEA would like to remind residents that no DEA agent or any law enforcement agency would ever contact you by telephone to pay a “fine”. Anyone who receives a phone call should deny the request and report the threat to the DEA.