Being able to buy prescription drugs online can be a lifesaver if you are disabled, elderly, or otherwise can't get out of the house as often. It can also be helpful to those of us who are just too busy to factor in yet another stop on our ride home from work. However, consumers must be incredibly careful when they purchase prescription drugs online because of the potential for fraud. You may not be getting the product they're telling you you're getting, or you might be getting it in such dangerous doses that it could land you in the hospital.
There are innumerable illegal websites out there that sell prescription medication, or drugs that seem to be prescription medication but are either fake or are some other kind of drug entirely. In October 2016, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy researched over 11,000 prescription medication websites that sold drugs to American citizens, and nearly all of them were illegal (over 95 percent).
WGRZ.com shared five warning signs that consumers should look for when deciding whether or not to purchase prescription drugs from an online distributor:
1. There is no physical address or phone number listed.
If a company does not list a phone number or physical address, it is because it does not want people to contact the company. This right here is red flag number one. How will you be able to report if you suffered a bad reaction to their medication? The answer is that you won't, and that's a major problem.
2. There are no pharmacists available on staff.
An online pharmacy should be similar to a brick-and-mortar pharmacy; the only difference should be that the business is conducted online, rather than in-store. If there is a number provided for a call center, but there are no pharmacists available to assist you, run – don't walk – from these websites.
3. A prescription is not required.
If you do not need to submit or verify a prescription before purchasing medication, then the website is illegal. It's just that simple.
4. The site does not encrypt your information.
If a site doesn't bother to encrypt your incredibly sensitive personal information, such as your Social Security number or your birthday, then the website may be a scam and – even worse – may be opening you up to potential identity theft. To know whether or not a site is encrypted, look for the padlock symbol in the address bar. Failing that, the site should notify you that your information is encrypted, or provide proof that their site is backed by an accredited internet security company.
5. The company is not based in the United States.
For consumers' safety, all United States pharmacies should be registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as well as with the board of pharmacy that pertains to that pharmacy's particular state. If the company is not based in the U.S., however, then it will be more difficult, perhaps impossible, to enlist the government's help if you end up getting scammed. Additionally, there is no way to double-check that the company you are buying from is, in fact, safe.