Criminals pose as DEA agents in extortion scheme

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PHOENIX -- The Drug Enforcement Administration is warning the public about criminals posing as DEA special agents or other law enforcement personnel as part of an international extortion scheme.

The criminals call the victims, who in most cases previously purchased drugs over the Internet or by telephone, and inform them that doing so is illegal and that enforcement action will be taken against them unless they pay a fine.

In most cases, the impersonators instruct their victims to pay the "fine" via wire transfer to a designated location, usually overseas. If victims refuse to send money, the impersonators often threaten to arrest them or search their property, according to a news release from the DEA.

Some victims who purchased their drugs using a credit card also reported fraudulent use of their credit cards.

This criminal activity has occurred in the past but is now occurring with much more frequency, according to officials. The DEA's Phoenix and Tucson offices are regularly receiving telephone calls from people who are the victims of this extortion effort.

Impersonating a federal agent is a violation of federal law. No DEA agent will ever contact members of the public by telephone to demand money or any other form of payment.

The DEA reminds the public to use caution when purchasing controlled substance pharmaceuticals by telephone or through the Internet. It is illegal to purchase controlled substance pharmaceuticals online or by telephone unless very stringent requirements are met. All pharmacies that dispense controlled substance pharmaceuticals over the Internet must be registered with the DEA.

By ordering any pharmaceutical medications online or by telephone from unknown entities, members of the public risk receiving unsafe, counterfeit, and/or ineffective drugs from criminals who operate outside the law. In addition, personal and financial information could be compromised.

Anyone receiving a telephone call from a person purporting to be a DEA special agent or other law enforcement official seeking money should refuse the demand and report the threat to 1-877-792-2873.