Your doctor has prescribed a great medicine for your allergies. But it seems that none of the pharmacies you’ve consulted has it. So what do you do? You go online to search for it. Luckily you find an online pharmacy that seems to answer your problem. But what if the online pharmacy is fake?
Similarly, you receive an e-mail from an online pharmacy, advertising a new-found medical solution to a condition you have. Think that some higher-power answered your prayers? Don’t get too enthusiastic – if that was the case, the medical researchers would have already advertised their discovery in the media. So what’s the e-mail all about? – An internet security scam, without a doubt. Cybercrooks know just how to leverage common health conditions to trick people into handing over credit card details or downloading crooked files like spyware and keyloggers to their computers. In some cases, fake online pharmacy scams may affect more than just your internet security – they can lead to further health problems.
What are fake online pharmacies?
They are scams usually promoting drugs and treatments that can be delivered without the need for a prescription or at very cheap prices. Although you may run into a fake online pharmacy site while browsing the web for pharmaceutical products, these scams are usually delivered by cybercrooks via e-mail, to thousands of people. Surely, you must’ve received such spam at least once – do Viagra and Ciali e-mail ads sound familiar?
Cybercrooks may also use names of popular social networks to make their e-mails appear authentic. There have been cases where users received e-mails disguised as Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook notification messages claiming they had unread messages or that their accounts had been deactivated. In order to solve the problem, the users had to click on a link. As you can imagine, the link would send users to an online pharmacy advertising fake pharmaceuticals.
Exposure to these fake sites is just part of the intro to the internet security scam. If you fall for the enticing advertising and go further to purchase a product, here’s what may happen:
- Your credit card details may get stolen as these sites use unsecure pages to process credit card transactions;
- You may unknowingly download spyware or malware that can manipulate your browser to display phishing webpages whenever you want to access your bank account;
- You may pay for a product that will never reach you;
- You receive the product but you have no guarantee it’s the real thing. Moreover, if it’s not something prescribed by your doctor, it might interfere with other medication you may be taking.
How do you recognize them?
Have a look at the following extracts from an online pharmacy spam:
Sender: a so-called “Dr. William H. Bates”
Subject: How to restore your eyesight without surgery?
“Dr. Bates Discovered a Scientifically Proven Way To Have a Perfect Vision Naturally, And Finally Reveal The Unbelievably Easy, Step-By-Step Actions You Could Already Be Taking To Throw Away Your Glasses or Contact Lenses.”
Click here >> [link to a fake online pharmacy site]”
Sender: a so-called “Kareem Maher”
Subject: Don’t worry, your salvation is coming. Our pills is here.
“Our pills will give you something to go crazy about.
Visit us! [link to a fake online pharmacy site]”
Do these messages look authentic to you?
Here are a few common traits of an internet security scam involving fake online pharmacy spam:
- The e-mail is unsolicited, coming from a suspicious source;
- The pharmaceutical or medical solution is cheap or hard-to-get;
- The e-mail subject is promising something extraordinary;
- There are misspelled words or grammar mistakes in the subject line or e-mail body text;
- The message urges you to click on a link;
- The dedicated online pharmacy site advertises miraculous solutions and treatments to all sorts of health conditions or regular medicine for which legitimate pharmacies would ask you for a doctor’s prescription;
- The site is based overseas and doesn’t have contact details (telephone number, street address etc.) or doesn’t have Terms and Conditions.
Got a health condition? Don’t fall for fake online pharmacies! 7 Tips to protect yourself against such internet security threats:
- 1. Be careful with too-good-to-be-true offers for medicines, supplements and treatments. Seek advice from your health care professional on any “new” miraculous pharmaceuticals. Your health is not something you want to risk.
- 2. Pay attention to the e-mail sender, subject line and text in the e-mail body. If you don’t know the sender, or see grammar mistakes in the e-mail, or the writing just looks funny, delete the e-mail. Some spammers have learned how to trick traditional e-mail clients and how to make their e-mail end up in the users’ inbox, rather than spam box. Which is why you need an effective Spamfilter like the one included in Bullguard Internet Security 12, to sort out all those malicious e-mails.
- 3. If you receive an e-mail from a social network you have an account with directing you to an online pharmacy, be sure it’s an internet security scam! Avoid it or delete it altogether. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. would never send such e-mails.
- 4. Do not click on any links in suspicious e-mails, or open files attached to them. They might trigger a malware download or send you to a phishing site. Also, do not call a telephone number in a spam e-mail.
- 5. If you do end up on an online pharmacy site, do your research before making the decision to purchase a pharmaceutical product. Check the contact details and Terms and Conditions. If the site has an online shop where you can buy the product from, check the site for internet security encryption signs: the web address has to include “https://” and a closed padlock beside it. Also, if you deal with an overseas-based site, bear in mind that it can be much harder to sort out any problems that may arise. So, again, practise caution!
- 6. Do not buy medicine for which you need prescription from online pharmacy sites that may not be legitimate. If you need such medicine, or any other type of pharmaceutical, ask your health care professional if they can recommend any online pharmacies. In any case, their advice should come first.
- 7. Always have effective internet security software installed on your computer. BullGuard’s internet security suite comes with a proactive antivirus engine that protects you from all sorts of spyware, viruses, Trojans and other malware, no matter how old or new, as well as other internet security features such as Antiphishing, Spamfilter, Safe Browsing and much more. Clearly, your health comes first. But think about your computer as well – do you care about its health?