Beware new phone scam claiming FDA fines

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The scam uses the rouse of a government agency to gain a person's trust.

A caller tells unsuspecting people they've done something wrong and can avoid arrest by paying a fine.

Some individuals have lost up to a quarter of a million dollars.

Imagine your phone ringing.

The voice on the line says he's calling from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the drugs you've been buying online are, in fact, illegal.

It doesn't sound good.

"Folks who receive these calls, frequently are frightened," said Better Business Bureau Tom Gallagher. "They're afraid it's a government person and they're going to get in trouble."

That's exactly how the scam artist on the phone wants you to feel.

He tells you if you don't cooperate, you could be arrested.

"They're particularly vulnerable when a strong sounding individual is on the phone telling them that I'm from the FDA and we believe you are guilty of a criminal act," he said.

Then the con artist tells you there's a way out.

You can avoid arrest by paying a fine ranging from $100 to $250 thousand.

"What these guys try to do is get the person on the phone to give them a credit card number, to wire transfer money through a Western Union money order or something like that. And that's the last they'll ever hear," said Gallagher.

The scenario, playing out all over the country, hit a woman a right here in Richmond.

Luckily her story has a happy ending.

Instead of falling for the scam, her family alerted authorities.

Now the BBB says there's a lesson to be learned.

"No government agency ever operates like this. No bank ever operates like this," he said. "If you get a phone call from somebody who says they're with the FDA, I would simply hang up. I would just simply say, no thanks and get off of the phone. The Food and Drug Administration is not going to call you."

The FDA thinks there are more victims out there.

If you have been a target of this kind of scam contact the agency at 800-521-5783.

(c) 2010 WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.