FDA Impersonators Threaten Public Safety

January 7, 2010
Angie Drakulich

Angie Drakulich was editorial director of Pharmaceutical Technology.

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

The US Food and Drug Administration released a warning to the public on Dec. 29, 2009 about criminals posing as FDA special agents and other law enforcement personnel as part of an international extortion scam.

The US Food and Drug Administration released a warning to the public on Dec. 29, 2009 about criminals posing as FDA special agents and other law-enforcement personnel as part of an international extortion scam. The impersonators target individuals who have previously purchased drugs over the Internet or through telepharmacies.

The impersonators claim that purchasing drugs online or by phone is illegal and tell the individuals they must pay a fine of $100 to $250,000 via wire transfer (usually to the Dominican Republic). Individuals who refuse to pay the fake fine are threatened with physical harm, arrest, or property searches. The impersonators have also used the victims’ credit cards for fraudulent purchases.


"Impersonating an FDA official is a violation of federal law," said Michael Chappell, FDA acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, in a press release. "The public should note that no FDA official will ever contact a consumer by phone demanding money or any other form of payment.”


Individuals who receive calls from potential agency impersonators can report the information by phone to the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Metro Washington Field Office at 800.521.5783. Other criminals have been posing as agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Secret Service, US Customs Service, and US and Dominican prosecutors and judges.