04/12/2012 01:58 pm ET Updated Apr 12, 2012

Online Prescription Drug Scammers Siphon Thousands From Victims

Have you ever been tempted by an online advertisement selling weight-loss pills or sleeping aids that are cheap and prescription-free?

Beware: Buying prescription drugs online has cost some people more than they bargained for.

Scammers are prowling the Internet, enticing consumers that buy prescription drugs online. Scammers sell drugs to unsuspecting consumers and then pose as drug enforcement agents threatening to sue the victims for buying drugs illegally if they do not pay up, ABC News reports.

Victims have lost thousands of dollars to the scam, according to ABC News. Carolyn Sirek, a legal secretary in Texas, shot and killed herself after emptying her savings account for scammers that had been harassing her with phone calls.

Losing money to scammers is not the only danger of buying drugs online. A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University found that one in three online searches for prescription drugs redirect people to sites illegally selling prescription drugs, and that these drugs often use incorrect, perilous doses. Counterfeit drugs sold online often do not contain the active ingredient or contain the wrong drug altogether, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In order to avoid scams, the Mayo Clinic recommends buying only prescription drugs that are prescribed by your doctor from licensed pharmacies. If you've bought drugs online and are being scammed, the Drug Enforcement Administration advises that you should hang up the phone and report the incident to the DEA, ABC News reports.

Here are some red flags that the Mayo Clinic highlights as warning signs:
  • Ads selling drugs at rates much lower than those at your local pharmacy
  • Ads that say no prescriptions required
  • Ads for drugs that are not approved by the FDA
  • Websites with only foreign contact information
  • Websites that don't provide a phone number or street address
  • Unsealed or altered packaging
  • No delivery at all, and unauthorized charges to your credit card