While buying from domestic online pharmacies is relatively safe, when it comes to buying prescription drugs from other countries, there are particular risks involved. The goods could not arrive, or your credit card information could be stolen: fraudulent credit card charges after purchasing medicines online is not that rare of a case. For example the pharmacy Golden Pharma 25 has been known to steal its customer’s personal information and uses it for fraudulent purchases online, as discussed on the Pharmacy Reviewer Forum
One way to avoid this problem could appear to be money transfer businesses, such as PayPal. However, PayPal in particular does not allow buying medicines through their service, so this popular alternative is not very likely to be used by reputable pharmacies either.
One way to lower the risks when buying online is to use pre-paid credit cards. Using them can avoid givign out extra personal information. But the real advantage is that these credit cards can be loaded with just the right amount of money for the planned transaction. This way after the payment is processed, there is no more money that can be withdrawn from your bank account and since it is not an actual credit card, there will be no debt accumulation there either.
Pre-paid cards can be bought from Walmart or other common vendors. There is a good discussion on different prepaid cards and their use on Best Prepaid Visa Card That Doesn’t Require Personal Information
Prepaid cards before loading them with money usually cost only 3$ and there is a 2% international transaction fee, which is pretty standard, so when having doubts about the safety of an internet pharmacy, it is usually better to be on the safe side and use a card that will prevent additional financial losses even if the shipment will fail to arrive or some other problem arises.
When rogue online pharmacies decide they need more victims or more revenue, sometimes they turn to some really outrageous tactics.
For example, there are certain online pharmacies, who after providing the medicine (usually prescription medicine) calls their customers, taking up the identities of special service agents and using fear tactics extract even more money from their victims. ABC news had a Nightline program reporting about this issue:
And there is an ongoing discussion about this on the Pharmacy Reviewer forum:
Pharmacy Reviewer: DEA Agent Impersonator Calls
However, long story short: DEA agents never call and warn about searching your apartments or demand anything from you. This is unlawful as there is no way you can identify an agent through the telephone.
Another trick fraudsters use to extort money after an order has been made (and paid for) is to email asking for more money. Usually the fraudsters’ excuse is an unavoidable price change, a better deal (buy more for just a little bonus), or a failure to receive money (which is almost always a lie). Customers often pay up, because they are afraid they will not receive their shipments otherwise. However most often this scam tactic is simply an attempt to extort even more money from their victims, because they will probably not follow through with the order even with additional money spent.
The last, common trick when dealing with overseas online pharmacies, is their refusal to accept any payment options other than Western Union. Western Union basically allows the fraudsters to completely vanish with your money. After someone in an overseas country takes your money, they have no tracks they should cover, so maximum care should be taken with online pharmacies with WU as their sole payment option. There is an example on the PR Forum of a man who was scammed out of $900 by paying through Western Union, showing the risks of using Western Union.
While using PayPal with online pharmacies may seem like a good idea, there are many risks attached. First and foremost, buying controlled, prescription-only drugs is against PayPal’s policy of acceptable use which states that PayPal cannot be used for purchases of any prescription drugs:
PayPal Acceptable Use
So basically even if all you need is something as harmless as Viagra, it will most probably be off-limits through PayPal legally.
While not recommended, if you would still like to try buying from online pharmacies through PayPal, here are the risks you should be aware of:
PayPal might close your account and freeze your funds for good. PayPal are known to act in a way which is almost tantamount to stealing people’s money when they discover that someone has been buying medicines through the web using their payment service: they will freeze the funds for months and close your account. If determined to use PayPal or wanting extra privacy, it is apparently possible to use PayPal anonymously (search on Google for how-to guides), although the process of setting up an anonymous PayPal account is not quick or easy.
Another mild risk when using PayPal is security. Buying from online pharmacies usually includes giving some ammount of personal information to the pharmacy. Email is usually required, so there‘s a risk it can be used to hack your PayPal account (provided it is the same email). There‘s a first-hand experience at Pharmacy Reviewer forum of someone whos PayPal account was hack attempted: PayPal Alertpay hack attempt and while I do not consider this a serious attempt, it is still something to be considered.
The last two remaining risks are probably the worst ones. There are a handful of accounts scattered around the web of people who had law enforcement officers show up at their door after purchasing medicines through PayPal. However it is not clear that this is a big risk when buying small quantities of medicines which are not highly controlled.
The final risk is of course that the online pharmacy might take your money and refuse to provide anything. For obvious reasons complaining to PayPal might not work in such cases, although it would probably result in the online pharmacy’s PayPal account being closed (but yours too).
For those who are still dedicated to use PayPal with online pharmacies, here is a link to a thread containing success stories at Pharmacy Reviewer forum:
Do any iops use paypal