Just like every other person, you prefer to buy stuff online as against going to traditional brick-and-mortar stores. E-commerce offers unparalleled convenience, ease, and privacy to consumers.
It’s easy to see why online pharmacies have become so popular – consumers can buy possibly embarrassing products like Viagra discretely.
But this popularity comes at a price; unscrupulous people now sell fake and potentially harmful drugs to unsuspecting folks.
It’s also easy to see why medications for erectile dysfunction are some of the most commonly counterfeited drugs online.
According to the FDA, an alarming 97% of online pharmacies are illegitimate and dangerous. Therefore, it’s important that you become savvy about the growing menace of fake online pharmacies.
Fraudsters will go to great lengths to ensure their websites appear as legitimate as possible making it difficult to identify a fake online pharmacy from just looking at its website alone.
What are the dangers of buying from fake online pharmacies?
Often, the drugs online cost less making it easier on your wallet. But fake online pharmacies put your life at risk because you’re not getting the genuine medicine you think you are getting. Instead, they give you fake, expired or substandard version of the real thing. And to make matters worse, what you are sold could simply be chalk or some other more harmful substance.
When you buy a drug, you rely on the drug to act as intended to relieve you of your condition. Taking any other substance in its place that wasn’t designed to act as expected means your condition is not being treated, thereby putting your health at risk.
Putting your credit card and other personal information on fake online pharmacies can expose you to personal and financial risk. These fake sites can also download spyware and other dangerous files to your computer. Identity theft is on the rise and you have to be careful with your online transactions.
So how can you tell if an online pharmacy is fake?
Now that you know the dangers of patronizing fake online pharmacies, you have to watch out diligently for tell-tale signs that an online pharmacy is bogus.
Here are some red flags to watch out for to protect your health and that of your loved ones when shopping for drugs online.
- You can easily purchase prescription medicine without the prescription: If the online drugstore doesn’t request for your prescription for prescription drugs, and rather asks you to fill out a questionnaire, it’s an obvious sign that what you’re are getting is a fake.
- The pharmacy doesn’t have any indication of being licensed by the board of pharmacy or any other regulatory body: A quick check on your country’s regulatory body’s website will give you more information on any licensing boards for pharmacies. Online pharmacies in the U.S., for example, are certified through the VIPPS accreditation.
- Verify with International Drug list: Getting a drug out to the market is often a long and rigorous process. Cross check with the international drug list to see if the drug being offered for sale have been through the FDA tough safety trials. If the drugs haven’t been approved, what you’re are getting might be an ineffective or toxic medication.
- If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is: Phony online pharmacies will sell drugs far lower than what is obtainable.
- Fake online pharmacies will send you spam or unsolicited email: Especially for cheap or scarce drugs. The subject title of the email will usually be different for the offered products. Often incorrectly spelled, the subject will contain random spaces and special characters in between words in an attempt to bypass spam filters.
- You should be able to speak to a pharmacist: Check if there a working phone number on the site. If there’s no phone number or the number included is not working, or doesn’t connect you to a customer service rep, simply run.
- If there are no physical addresses on the site or the one included doesn’t exist: You shouldn’t go any further. A lack of physical address means they are untraceable and therefore not a legitimate business.
- If the online pharmacy offers you a ‘promo’: Buy X amount of drug and get an extra: Do not even consider it. The pharmacy is fake if it claims to ship worldwide: drugs need to go through a rigorous approval process to be able to be distributed in other countries.
- Watch out for an extra fee: If they are charging an additional processing fee at customs or indication that the products will need extra shipping time.
- All U.S. pharmacies ship through FedEx, DHL, or UPS only: Using another delivery service is a sure sign that the online pharmacy is a scam.
Medicine from other countries?
FDA does not have control of prescription medication from other countries; therefore, FDA cannot guarantee the safety or effectiveness of those imported medications.
Drugs tested and approved abroad may be slightly different that could make you develop resistance to your treatment or cause your physician to misdiagnose you. If you are taking other drugs, these differences could also nullify the effects of your doses or create harmful interactions.
Again, many of these fake pharmacies use fake “storefronts” to deceive the consumers into thinking they come from other countries with high safety standards. Meanwhile, the medicines could have been from anywhere.
What to do when you stumble upon one.
- Confirm your suspicions: To be doubly sure, check first with your country’s regulatory body for a list of all the legitimate online pharmacies to make sure that your suspicions are correct. For the U.S., online pharmacies are certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy through their VIPPS accreditation program.
- Report the site: If you have confirmed that the pharmacy is fake, report it. Your country’s regulatory body should have a channel for reporting suspicious pharmacies. If you don’t know the regulatory body responsible, check the World Health Organization’s list of websites of medicines regulatory authorities around the world.
The extra due diligence and vigilance required to spot these fake online pharmacies are well worth the effort to safeguard your health and that of your household, and sometimes, even your finances.