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Internet Pharmacy Scams: Know Before You Buy!

INTRODUCTION

Online pharmacies are growing by the day. While most are legitimate and really do provide consumers the opportunity to save money on their prescription drugs, there will always be the few that are out to steal your hard earned money.

An internet pharmacy scam may be any number of things, but most importantly it is set up to steal your money! The difference between scams is how they go about stealing it. One internet pharmacy scam site may simply be set up to take orders, but never sends your meds. When things heat up, the website, and your money, suddenly disappear.

Other online pharmacy scam sites may just be gathering credit card information for use at a later time. They take orders, but never charge your credit card or send you the prescription drugs. They are set up to gather credit card and personal information from you. This information will them be used at a later time by the con artists operating the site or sold to other scam artists for their use. Either way, if you order something online and never receive it, but think all is ok because your card was not charged, look out! This may come back to haunt you.

There are still other online pharmacy scam sites that take orders and then mail the unsuspecting customer counterfeit medication or medication that has been cut or is of low quality and made in unsanitary pharmaceutical labs. Either way, they are stealing your hard-earned dollars.

Keep in mind also that even legitimate online pharmacies may still use your information in bad ways, either on purpose or unknowingly. Many businesses, not just online pharmacies, make it a routine practice to sell your email, phone number, and address to email and telemarketers. Because you have already spent money online, you are a better prospect for more marketing. Check to determine whether the online pharmacy you are using clearly defines its privacy policies to help avoid this. Some savy consumers also set up a free email address through yahoo or hotmail especially for use in ordering. You can set up one free email for each business you order from and then check how well they keep their word about no spam.

There are no hard and fast rules to spot internet pharmacy scams. The list below; however, may be helpful to you in spotting them. Remember that just because an online pharmacy fails in one area does not necessarily mean that it is a scam. You have to look at the entire picture and to do so, we offer the following list:

DOES IT HAVE A PHONE NUMBER AND PHYSICAL ADDRESS?

Does the pharmacy have a phone number and a physical address? It is easy to contract out a toll-free number to a call center, but do they have a physical address listed on their website? If they do not, does that tell you anything about the company in light of the circumstances?

CAN THE ADDRESS BE VERIFIED?

If the pharmacy does have a physical address, can it be verified? If the pharmacy has been in business for very long, it should be fairly easy to check for it in phone books, etc. If a business has not been in business long enough to have a listing in the phonebook, you might want to avoid it until it builds more of a track record.

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF A WHOIS SEARCH?

Do a WhoIs search on the domain name and you may find some interesting information. For example, the search will tell you where their IP is located and also usually give their contact address. If a pharmacy says that it is a US or Canadian pharmacy, but their contact address is Lithuania then you have to ask what the heck is going on here. The same goes when you see a website that does not display a contact person and address, but the name and address of its domain name registration company instead in order to hide the true owner's identify.

IS LIVE ONLINE HELP REALLY AVAILABLE?

A lot of sites selling products, not just online pharmacies, advertise that they have live online help available. Do they really? While there may a little graphic advertising as much, you may also notice that it is never available. Some sites just say this, but never have anyone present to answer questions. And just who is answering the questions? Does it sound like someone who has a list of common questions that is just looking up answers from the list or someone who is affiliated with the company and knows what they are talking about. Generally, after a few questions you will know.

DOES THE PHARMACY TAKE CREDIT CARDS?

This may not be an indicator of a legitimate site, but if the site accepts only paypal or money orders and no credit cards then it might be indicitive of a problem.

ARE SHIPPING AND OTHER COSTS CLEARLY STATED?

If you are not aware of all costs before placing the order, do not place it! Some sites will not tell you the cost of shipping until you enter your personal information and possibly your credit card number. Another scam a few use is to suddenly tell you about a "consultation fee" or some other fee only after you submit all of your information. Be sure you are getting all of the costs up front before you enter any personal information. If you are not sure, ue their toll-free number or email and ask.

BE CAREFUL OF TESTMONIALS

Some internet pharmacy sites provide personal testimonials, but what are they in reality? More than likely, no good at all because you have no way knowing whether the person making the testimonal is a real person or if what was written was simply made up by the operator of the online pharmacy.

CAN YOU EASILY CALL AND TALK TO THE ONLINE PHARMACY?

An online pharmacy scam site may be set up to take orders, take your money, and then close down after a few weeks of collecting money and sending nothing in return. Before you order from an online pharmacy, pick up the phone and call their toll-free number to be sure it works. Talk to the person on the other end of the line and get an idea of what you think.

DOES THE WEBSITE HAVE SPELLING AND GRAMMATICAL MISTAKES?

Sure, it is easy to make a mistake or two, but if you see a site with several what does that tell you? Why would you order drugs from a site that is full of errors?

IS THE WEBSITE KEPT UP TO DATE AND FUNCTIONING PROPERLY?

Take a look at the online pharmacy website and ask yourself how it really looks? Do they have news items posted that are months old? Look for a copyright notice and what date appears on it. If a site is being maintained, the notice should be kept up to date. When you click on the different menu items do they come up properly in your browser or are there pages that do not work? When you look around the site, ask yourself if things are up to date.

IS ORDERING SECURE?

Networks are secure if you can see the lock graphic in the right-hand side of your browser status bar and if there is a reputable credit society handling your on-line transactions. Before submitting any personal information, you should see this graphic. No graphic, no order! Be careful, some sites will use their own padlock graphic somewhere on the web page to fool you. They will also say they offer secure ordering when they do not. Remember, the graphic should appear in the right-hand side of the browser status bar (at bottom).

CAN SHIPPING BE TRACKED?

Are orders shipped using a method, such as registered mail, which provides some sort of documentation of the delivery? If not, be careful.

CONCLUSION

The tips above on how to spot online pharmacies are to help you get started. The bottom line is that you have to judge for yourself. Just because a pharmacy is online or located in another country does not mean that it is scam. There are many foreign online pharmacies that provide great service and great prices. Unfortunately, the few online pharmacies that are set up to scam you make things bad for everyone concerned.

Remember that dealing with online pharmacies is like everything else in life, use your common sense. If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is!

For more information, go to Internet Pharmacy List, which researches and reviews online pharmacies and provides other consumer information free of charge.

E. Mantonya