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Fake online pharmacies

What are fake online pharmacies?

Fake online pharmacies are scams that use the internet and spam emails to offer drugs and medicine at very cheap prices or without the need for a prescription from a doctor. These scams can cause both financial and health problems.

Most spam email offers selling medicines or drugs are designed to steal your credit card details or to download damaging files (like spyware and key-loggers) onto your computer.

Even if you actually do receive the products that you order, there is no guarantee that they are the real thing. In some cases, the medicines or other products may even damage your health.

Remember that there are legitimate online pharmacies. These businesses will have their full contact details listed and will also require a valid prescription before they send out any medicine that requires one.

Warning signs

  • You receive an unsolicited email offering cheap or hard-to-get pills or treatments. Often, these emails will promote well-known drugs such as Prozac or Viagra.
  • The subject title of the email has nothing to do with the products on offer.
  • The words in the email are spelt incorrectly or have apostrophes and spaces in the middle of the words. This is done to try to avoid anti-spam filters.
  • The email or website will sell you drugs that you would normally need a prescription for, even if you don’t have a prescription.
  • The pharmacy’s website is based overseas or does not include a contact telephone number or street address.

Protect yourself from fake online pharmacy scams

  • Use your common sense: the offer may be a scam.
  • Be very careful about offers for medicines, supplements or other treatments: always seek the advice of your health care professional.
  • Do not open suspicious or unsolicited emails (spam): delete them.
  • Do not click on any links in a spam email, or open any files attached to them.
  • Never call a telephone number that you see in a spam email.
  • Check the website address carefully. Scammers often set up fake websites with very similar addresses.
  • Never enter your personal, credit card or online account information on a website that you are not certain is genuine.

As well as following these specific tips, find out how to protect yourself from all sorts of other scams.

Do your homework

Prescription-only medicine requires a doctor or other qualified health care professional to have examined you and talked to you about the medical issue in question. Most medicines have at least some side-effects and these can be very serious for some people. You should never start a new course of medication or start taking any new pills without first seeing your health care professional.

If you have a prescription and are interested in using an online pharmacy, you need to make sure that it is not a scam. Ask your health care professional if they can recommend any online pharmacies. Never access an online pharmacy site through a link in an unsolicited email.

Some websites and emails offer ‘generic’ versions of well-known drugs. However, many drugs are still protected by patents and no legitimate generic versions exist. Check with your local pharmacy or health care professional to see if a generic version of the drug exists.

If you are interested in buying from an online pharmacy, pay attention to the terms and conditions of the website. Make sure you also find out about how to get a refund if things go wrong. Check that the pharmacy is who they say they are—it is very easy to set up a fake website. Make sure the website includes full contact details (a physical street address and phone numbers).

If you want to use an overseas-based online pharmacy, you should also check with the Therapeutic Goods Administration to make sure that the product you want to purchase does not contain any ingredients that are prohibited in Australia. Remember that if you deal with an overseas-based website, it can be much harder to sort out any problems that may come up.


If you receive an unsolicited email from an online pharmacy, delete it.

If you do want to buy from an online pharmacy and you are sure that the online pharmacy is legitimate, there are still a few precautions you should take. Make sure you know exactly how much the order will cost (including delivery fees and any currency conversion rates). Also make sure you know how to get a refund if the product does not arrive, is damaged or not what you ordered.

Report them

If you think you have received an offer from a fake online pharmacy, you can tell the authorities through the report a scam section of SCAMwatch. You should also warn your family and friends about the scam.


What to do if you've been scammed; Scams & the law; Report a scam.

Similar scams:

Miracle cure scams prey on the sick or desperate by selling drugs or treatments that don’t work or are even dangerous.

False claims are made to mislead you into buying ‘revolutionary’ pills, creams, diet advice or machines.

Spam emails, SMS or MMS usually offer free goods or ‘prizes’, very cheap products or promises of wealth. Responding to spam messages can result problems for you computer and your bank account.

There are many types of scams that aim to steal your credit card details, either by taking the card itself or by tricking you into giving them the card’s details.

Dating and romance scams try to lower your defences by appealing to your romantic or compassionate side. They play on emotional triggers to get you to provide money, gifts or personal details.

If you are contacted by a psychic or clairvoyant offering you mystical secrets to wealth, health and luck, be very wary. Do not be fooled by fantastic claims and promises, they may be scams.

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