The internet is proving to be both a blessing and a curse. When it comes to consumerism – the infinitely expanding economic arena in which goods and services are bought and sold – the World Wide Web has it incredibly easy for buyers and sellers to reach one another. Unfortunately it has also made it incredibly easy for scam artists and brazen criminals of all shapes and sizes and predilections to open up the online equivalent of a seemingly legitimate, but ultimately fraudulent storefront.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or FDA, the number of Americans who now purchase and receive their prescription medications from a website instead of their local brick-and-mortar pharmacy has increased to about 25 percent or one in four. So, since fraud is primarily a crime of opportunity committed by relatively lazy criminals who tend to seek the path of least resistance to get to their pot of gold, it becomes fairly obvious why the FDA is doing what it can to warn people about the increasing amount of fake and fraudulent pharmacies littering the information superhighway.
First Step: Identify Fake Online Pharmacies
You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to know that the first step to solving just about any problem is to identify and subsequently define exactly what the problem is. There are a number of clear, instantly recognizable warning signs, red flags and dead giveaways inherent to virtually all fraudulent internet pharmacies, which will be discussed in the following section, but first, let’s step back for a moment and take a look at the bigger picture.
A fake online pharmacy can be broadly defined as a professionally looking website designed to fool consumers into purchasing the medications advertised on that website. They typically solicit customers through spam email blasts that promise incredibly low prices on a wide variety of common prescription drugs. Even if these websites actually send you the medications that you order, they are quite often as fake as the online pharmacy itself and might even be hazardous to your health.
Second Step: Investigate Red Flags and Dead Giveaways
It is important that you remember that legitimate pharmacies do exist online; however, according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s independent research, only 3 percent of internet-based pharmacies currently follow federal and state laws. The good news is that there are several easily identifiable warning signs to look for if you are considering purchasing your prescription drugs online, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Prescription drugs offered up for sale without requiring that you show an actual doctor’s prescription
- Unsolicited email offering low prices on well-known medications, such as Viagra and Prozac
- Email’s subject line incongruent with items offered in email
- Email contains grammatical or spelling errors, which often are intentionally included in an attempt to fool anti-spam filters
- Online pharmacy’s website does not provide standard contact information, such as phone numbers or a physical street address
- Online pharmacy is based overseas
Third Step: Protect Yourself with Proactive Defense
It is vital that you scrutinize and investigate thoroughly any and all places from which you get your medication, whether it is online or not. Here are some other simple, common sense ways for you to take an active, not just participative, but lead role in your own invaluable health care. After all, what is more important, in the grand scheme of things, than your health?
- Always obtain the professional advice of your family doctor or health care practitioner whom you have already validated as legitimate before you purchase your prescription drugs
- Never, ever, open any unsolicited or suspicious emails
- If you do happen to open an unsolicited or suspicious email, never, ever call a telephone number or click on links inside them, or open any of the attached files
- Never, ever, give out your credit card numbers or any other personal financial information to any website unless you are 100 percent certain about its legitimacy
Everyone wants to save money, especially when it comes to relatively expensive items, and most especially when it comes to relatively expensive items that become a part of one’s regular budget, such as prescription medication for ongoing, chronic or long-term conditions, such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Crohn’s disease. But it would be unwise to value frugality over your or your loved ones’ health.