Fake online pharmacies

Fake online pharmacies operate through websites or emails offering you cheap healthcare products and medicines – sometimes without needing a prescription.

How this scam works

Fake online pharmacies are scams that are designed to trick you into paying for items you will never receive, or items that do not live up to their claims.

Scammers will set up fake pharmacy websites that are designed to look like legitimate retailers. They will offer health products, medicines and drugs at very cheap prices or without the need for a prescription from a doctor.

Prescription-only medicine requires a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional to have examined you. Most medicines have at least some side-effects and these can be very serious for some people. They can also have dangerous interactions with medicines you are already taking.

If you take up an offer, and pay the ‘retailer’, you may never receive the items you ordered. If you 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.

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 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

  • Be very careful about offers for medicines, supplements or other treatments: always seek the advice of your doctor or healthcare professional.
  • Ask your healthcare professional if they can recommend any online pharmacies to fill your prescription. Never access an online pharmacy site through a link in an unsolicited email, just delete the email.
  • Legitimate pharmacies that trade online will list their full contact details and will require a valid doctor’s prescription before they send out any prescription medicine.
  • 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 healthcare professional to see if a generic version of the drug exists.
  • If you want to use an overseas-based online pharmacy, you should check with the Therapeutic Goods Administration that the product does not contain any ingredients that are prohibited in Australia. Remember, it can be much harder to sort out any problems with an overseas company.
  • If you are sure 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, check the refund policy or what happens if the product does not arrive, is damaged or not what you ordered.
  • Never call a telephone number that you see in a spam email, and never enter your personal, credit card or online account information on a website that you are not certain is genuine.

Have you been scammed?

If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

We encourage you to report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page. This helps us to warn people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible. Please include details of the scam contact you received, for example, email or screenshot.

We also provide guidance on protecting yourself from scams and where to get help.

Spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.

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