Karen Berger, PharmD
Karen Berger, PharmD, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 2001. She has worked in community pharmacies for over 17 years as a Pharmacist in Charge, staff, and floater pharmacist for a large chain. Currently, she is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in Northern NJ. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pharmacists on social media have been talking about recently receiving threatening telephone calls. In these cases, the caller states that he/she is a DEA representative. The pharmacist is caught off guard, because the caller has information, such as the pharmacy NPI and the pharmacist’s home address. Calls such as these, however, are a scam.
In a recent press release, the DEA addressed the issue of telephone scams, and the agency is urging registered practitioners and members of the public to be cautious of phone calls from criminals posing as DEA or other law enforcement personnel. These callers threaten arrest and prosecution for “supposed violations of federal drug laws or involvement in drug-trafficking activities.”
The DEA is receiving reports from practitioners, as well as the general public that these callers threaten legal action if a fine is not paid immediately over the phone. “The callers typically identify themselves as DEA personnel and instruct their victims to pay the "fine" via wire transfer to avoid arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment,” according to the DEA.
Although methods may vary, here are some things the callers have in common:
- Fake names/badge numbers OR names of well-known DEA senior officials
- Urgent and aggressive tone
- The person refuses to speak or leave a message with anyone other than the targeted person
- The callers threaten arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment (and revocation of their DEA numbers for medical practitioners)
- Thousands of dollars demanded via wire transfer or untraceable gift cards taken over the phone
- A falsified caller ID number which looks like a legitimate DEA phone number
- Callers ask for personal information: Social Security number or date of birth
- When calling a medical practitioner, callers know the National Provider Identifier (NPI) number/state license numbers, and may claim that patients are making accusations against the practitioner
It is important to know that DEA personnel will NEVER contact anyone by telephone to demand money or any other form of payment. The DEA will not ask for personal information over the phone. In a legitimate DEA investigation, there is notification by official letter or in person. In addition, impersonation of a federal agent is a violation of federal law.
Although you may think you are too smart to fall for a scam, scammers are getting bolder and more creative and health care practitioners, including pharmacists, have been worried by these calls. Although we may not be sending untraceable gift cards, I know of several pharmacists who have been shaken up after receiving these calls.
If you receive 1 of these phone calls, do not give out any information. Refuse the demand and report the threat using the online form or call 877-792-2873. Reporting scam calls will help the DEA investigate and stop this criminal activity.
Any urgent concerns or questions, including inquiring about legitimate investigations, should be directed to the local DEA field division. Also, be sure to report the incident to your immediate supervisor.
DEA Warns Of Alarming Increase of Scam Calls [news release]. El Paso, TX; March 13, 2019: DEA website. https://www.dea.gov/press-releases/2019/03/13/dea-warns-alarming-increase-scam-calls-1. Accessed April 18, 2019.