35-year-old Jessica, like any average American, considers it safe and cheap to buy painkillers online. Five months ago, she logged on to an online pharmacy that professed to be authentic and bought the painkillers using her credit card. Since they were over the counter drugs, she did not require any prescription. The payment was a simple process, but for the unusual message at the end – the pharmacy announced that her credit card statement would have some individual’s name as the receiver of the payment. Though this was unusual, Jessica did not mind it and went about with the payment process.
After 2 months, she received a strange package that contained painkillers. The return address on the package was from some place in India. Instead of a pill bottle, the medicines were in a sandwich bag and had a terrible odor. Three months later, Jessica’s credit card statement was billed for over USD 500 for a phone card she had never ordered anywhere. Her credit card company gave her a number to call about the charges. The number belonged to a call center in India.
What happened to Jessica is a clear-cut case of credit card scam by an illegal online pharmacy. Not only did her medicines come from India, she was also billed for some phone card which she never ordered.
Credit Card scams by illegal pharmacies: The internet is rampant with money-thirsty hyenas who would resort to any means to loot the money in your credit card or online banking account. A scammer uses several means to do this – one way is setup an online pharmacy that looks reliable. The scammer can trick you into believing that his pharmacy is authentic and may access your credit card security code.
Warning signs of credit card scammers: How do you know you are dealing with an illegal online pharmacy scam? There are some warning signs which can help you find out:
1. Transactions listed in your credit card statement are not understandable. They point to some name and address which have nothing to do with the pharmacy from which you bought the medications
2. You see billing for things you have not bought or know nothing of.
3. Some pharmacies can lure you into telling them your credit card’s four digit security code over phone or over mail. This is not required if the pharmacy has a valid online credit card processing system.
4. Banks term online credit card processing as high-risk merchant transactions. Reputed banks do not grant such facilities to illegitimate businesses. Check if the pharmacy is having a legitimate high risk merchant account. Instead, if it is asking you to pay your bill to a receiver who has nothing to do with the pharmacy, understand that you are in for trouble.
Identity Thefts: Identity thefts happen with pharmacies that are fake. It can happen at two levels. At the low-risk level, fake online pharmacies sell your personal information to a third-party retailer who keeps bugging you with unwanted promotional ads, mailers and phone calls, trying to talk you into buying their products. This can be really irritating as many of those mails or phone calls sell you Viagra or Cialis or drugs which are extinct in local pharmacies. At the high-risk level, identity thefts happen when scammers use online pharmacies as a vehicle to steal your personal information for achieving their purposes. Jessica’s phone card purchase is a clear case of identity theft.
How to prevent identity thefts? The only way out is to buy from reputed, FDA-approved pharmacies. Better if the pharmacy has a VIPPS or Vet-VIPPS seal from NABP. These pharmacies keep your information secure and leave no possibility for identity thefts.