Drug Enforcement Agency imposters use threats to steal identities and money

posted by Mike Burke on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 in SHAZAM Blog

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is warning the public of a widespread fraud scheme in which telephone scammers impersonate DEA agents to extort money or steal personally identifiable information (PII). A new public service announcement aims to raise awareness that the DEA will never call demanding money or asking for personal information. Please share with your accountholders so they’re prepared if they receive a call from a DEA agent imposter.

In one false narrative, the target is told their name was used to rent a vehicle which was stopped at the border and contained a large quantity of drugs. The caller threatens the target with arrest for the fictional drug seizure and instructs the person to send money via gift card or wire transfer to pay a fine or to assist with the investigation. A portion of an actual scam call was captured by the DEA and can be heard here.

Schemers have spoofed legitimate DEA phone numbers to convince their target the call is legitimate, or have texted photos of what appear to be a legitimate law enforcement credential complete with a photo and badge number.

Overall tactics:

  • Using an urgent and aggressive tone, refusing to speak to or leave a message with anyone other than their targeted victim
  • Demanding thousands of dollars via wire transfer or in the form of untraceable gift card numbers the victim is told to provide over the phone
  • Requesting personal information, such as Social Security number or date of birth

Scammers are targeting members of our medical community, medical practitioners and pharmacists, and leveling threats using these tactics:

  • Revocation of their DEA registration allowing them to write prescriptions
  • Imposter references National Provider Identifier (NPI) numbers  and/or state license numbers
  • Scammer claims patients are making accusations against the practitioner

The best deterrence against these bad actors is awareness and caution. Available resources:

  • Anyone receiving a call from a person claiming to be with the DEA should report the incident to the FBI at www.ic3.gov.
  • The Federal Trade Commission provides recovery steps, shares information with more than 3,000 law enforcement agencies and takes reports at Reportfraud.ftc.gov.
  • Any victims who have given PII, like a Social Security number, to a caller can learn how to protect against identity theft at www.identitytheft.gov.

Reporting these scam calls will help federal authorities find, arrest, and stop the criminals engaged in this fraud. Impersonating a federal agent is a federal crime, punishable by up to three years in prison. Aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison plus fines and restitution.

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