Pharmacy Spam and Email From Legitimate Canadian Pharmacies

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You’re probably familiar with “junk mail.” Any time you sign up for discounts from a business or participate in another type of promotion, you open the door to receive advertisements and other mailings. Although you may think of them as a nuisance, targeted mailing lists are an effective tool for businesses to communicate directly with their customers, and in many cases can be informative and valuable, often containing information about deals and even coupons that are only available to members of the company’s mailing list. Unfortunately, some businesses participate in the rather shady tactic of selling their mailing lists to other companies, which is why you may find yourself receiving mail from companies you’ve never done business with.

What Is Spam?

Spam is the online version of junk mail. Although many people refer to any regular mailing from a business that comes into their inbox as spam, spam is mailings from businesses that come completely unsolicited. Please note that if you signed up to receive discounts or a newsletter from a company, this is solicited mail and is not considered spam.

The ability to mail people through the Internet for free is a fantastic convenience that has revolutionized the way we communicate. Unfortunately, it has also revolutionized the way that shysters get their products in front of consumers who likely don’t need or want the product in question. For no cost at all, unethical business owners and scammers can flood the inboxes of unsuspecting victims with emails offering get-rich-quick schemes, services that may not be completely legal, and sham products.

Spam has been used to allow scams that should have died out quickly to proliferate and continue. Sadly, people who are not well-versed in spam still fall for these scams and lose money. One classic spam scam is the “Nigerian prince” trick in which the recipient receives an email from a so-called “Nigerian prince” who is offering the victim a significant portion of his riches if they will allow access to their bank account to store the riches while the “prince” is in exile. Instead of becoming rich beyond their wildest dreams, the victim instead finds their bank account completely cleaned out. This particular scam is still alive and well today in a variety of different forms but with the same basic concept.

Pharmacy spam is particularly rampant, unfortunately. If you have an email address, you’ve likely received links advertising Viagra, Vicodin, and similar medications for extremely low prices and without a prescription. These unsolicited emails are not coming from legitimate U.S. or Canadian pharmacies although they often use names that are identical or similar to legitimate pharmacies. They may also use logos that are stolen off the Internet or modified to appear legitimate. Additionally, they may link to fake regulatory agencies, for instance, the non-existent “American Drug Association” or “Canadian International Drug Association.” This spam typically originates from countries outside the U.S. Russia is a common originating country for this spam as are many Asian countries. If you receive unsolicited emails from pharmacies, we recommend that you delete them immediately without even opening them.

Why Am I Getting Spam?

You may be receiving spam because you signed up for a mailing list of a company who participates in list sharing or selling, or you may be the victim of a spammer who took the time to troll the Internet looking for email addresses of people who comment on forums. It can often be difficult to know.

What Is Phishing?

Spam is annoying, but phishing can be disastrous. This technique is used to steal passwords and other important information (like bank account numbers) from unsuspecting victims. Phishing can happen over the phone, but it’s easier for the scammer to use the Internet and email for their criminal purposes.

The most common type of phishing is done by spoofing legitimate sites. Often, the phishing attempt begins when the victim receives an email that appears to be from a legitimate agency, such as the IRS or the victim’s banking institution. The email will usually say something like, “We have found a problem with your account. Please follow this link and enter your password to confirm that your account information is correct.” When the victim clicks the link, they are taken to a site that mimics the appearance of the legitimate agency. Unfortunately, it’s set up simply to collect the information that allows the criminal to steal your identity or the contents of your bank account.

Legitimate Communication or Phishing Attempt?

Financial institutions and other legitimate agencies will never ask you to click a link in an email or enter your password. For instance, the IRS states quite clearly on their website that they never initiate contact with taxpayers via email or any other electronic communication.

If you do receive an email from your bank or other agency requesting that you follow a link or submit your password, assume it is a phishing attempt and do not click the link. If you aren’t sure, go directly to the agency in question’s website by typing their URL in the address bar and check your information that way or call the agency directly.

Many agencies request you forward emails containing phishing attempts to a specific fraud-alert email address so they can notify customers who may have been affected and attempt to track down the criminal in question and shut down their operation.

Am I on a Spoofed Site?

A “spoofed” website is one that is designed to look like a legitimate site but is actually set up for the sole purpose of stealing your financial information or your identity. Sites that are commonly spoofed include banks, credit unions, insurance companies, and the IRS.

On the surface, spoofed websites look like the real deal, but there are a number of ways to tell the difference:

  • The URL address looks slightly different and may include a typo or a .net or .biz instead of .com, .gov, or .org at the end.
  • You may spot typos or grammatical errors on the website.
  • A webpage with a form requiring you to enter personal information does not have the signs that identify it as secure (see Chapter Five).
  • The font or the color scheme may look different than you are used to.
  • You are immediately asked for detailed information such as your password, bank account number, or Social Security number before you are able to access the site.

If you suspect that you are on a spoofed site, close the window immediately. If you have already typed in some of your personal information, contact the agency or company right away by phone to notify them that your personal information may have been breached and to create a new password.

How Can I Avoid Spam and Phishing Email?

The best way to avoid winding up on spam and phishing mailing lists is to be very careful whom you give your email address to. Before providing your address, check for a notification that your email address will not be sold to another company. Don’t sign up for contests online unless they are being run through a trustworthy brand. Otherwise, you may be unknowingly participating in a scheme to get your email address and sell it to spammers.

If your email provider offers a spam filter, use it. Many services, such as Gmail, offer spam filters as a matter of course and have them automatically set. Check your spam filter periodically to make sure that important information is not mistakenly being routed to the folder. If your email provider does not offer a spam filtering service, consider switching to one of the many free services that does.

Never trust a link in an email unless you are absolutely sure you know who sent it. Even then, be careful. A common phishing technique that is gaining popularity is spoofing email addresses. If you receive an email with nothing but a link in it, especially if the link is nothing but numbers and letters and doesn’t indicate where it goes, do not click the link — even if you think you know the person who sent it. If necessary, call the person who sent it to make sure it’s safe.

Be careful when visiting forums, message boards, and other chat sites. Don’t disclose your email address. Spammers use software that can scan these types of forums and pick out the email addresses to add to their list.

Although it may seem counter intuitive, never click on the unsubscribe links that are often included in spam emails. These links may download a virus onto your computer or may confirm to the spammer that you are likely to click links in spam, therefore identifying you as a prime target. Remember that when you are dealing with a spammer, you are dealing with someone who is not likely to be ethical in nature and probably has no qualms about lying. It may be helpful to set up a secondary email address for conducting business transactions or signing up for email lists. By doing this, you don’t risk compromising your primary email address.