Purchasing your medicines from online sources is as risky as it is beneficial. Yes, benefits await consumers planning on sourcing their prescriptions online, but because the internet is also a haven for illicit online operators, users are also exposed to possible disadvantages of sourcing products online.
Due to the real risks consumers are faced with when it comes to online shopping, buyers are advised by even the US Food and Drug Administration to be vigilant when purchasing medicines online. There are a plethora of stores carrying the medicines you need and this means that it will be hard to weed out the good stores from the bad ones. However, armed with the right knowledge of legitimate and rogue stores, you can find reliable stores to shop your meds online.
What are the possible risks buyers are faced with whenever shopping for their medicines online?
To say that online shopping is a risky business is an understatement. Given the liberty of everyone in using the web, there are certain operators that do not care about the consumer welfare and are given to scamming people for personal gain. Although we hope that clients won’t get to use these types of stores, there will always be unfortunate ones who will eventually get scammed.
Possible risks you can encounter while shopping for your medicines online include the following scenarios:
- Counterfeit medicines
One of the most common risks in shopping for medicines online is receiving fake medications. Because consumers can’t check the items before stores ship them, there is a 50-50 chance of them receiving fake medicines from their suppliers.
In some cases, buyers are sent placebo pills that naturally won’t do anything for their medical conditions. This is actually the least of their problems—in some cases, buyers are sent pills that are made of too much or too little of the active ingredients. Receiving medicines with too much of the active content can make you sick, especially those with already existing risks for drug interactions to high doses of the active ingredient.
Apart from being sent medicines with wrong amounts of the active ingredients, you can also be sent medicines with the wrong active contents. Medicines with hidden or wrong active ingredients put the patients’ lives at risk, especially those with contraindications to specific active contents. Patients may die taking these medicines.
And as if the abovementioned conditions aren’t scary enough, buyers can also receive contaminated medicines and medicines—drugs with ingredients like paint, sand, wood shavings, dangerous chemicals, hair, feces, and plenty others.
- Orders never sent
Another possible risk in shopping online is never getting your orders. Some online pharmacies fool consumers into ordering from their site and then are never heard from again. Buyers will then realize that the stores they have shopped from did not really exist—these stores had no functional mobile numbers and had no other contact details for the buyers to reach them.
- Stolen credit card information
Apart from the possibility of not being able to receive your orders from an online store, illicit operators can also steal your credit or debit card information. This is actually one of the worst things that can happen to you whenever shopping for your medicines online since this not only implies that you won’t get what you pay for—scam sites will also use your credit card details for their own personal expenses.
Consumers will be putting their money and health on the line while purchasing medicines online so patients intending to do so should clearly understand the risks.
What can I do to make my online shopping experience better?
Although shopping for medicines online is precarious, if done correctly through the help of legitimate online drugstores, you can actually enjoy endless possibilities to save. To help you in shopping safely online, here are some pointers you may need to consider:
- Use familiar websites
To make sure you’re dealing with legitimate shops, consult stores which come highly recommended by your peers or those from a curated list of websites (like our List of Top Vendors) that are guaranteed safe and effective to use.
If you don’t have current recommendations from your peers regarding which sites to use, conduct a mini-research to determine if the stores you’re eyeing are legitimate. Use third-party sites and ask around if needed.
- Use stores with SSL security
SSL secure sites usually have the padlock symbol on the address bar or those with the https:// on their addresses.
- Use a VPN
To add to your protection, use a VPN or a virtual private network while browsing so you can browse anonymously.
- Read reviews
If planning on purchasing your medicines at specific web drugstores, read available consumer reports for the website in question. If you don’t find reviews on review platforms, consult forum sites and ask around.
- If possible, use prepaid online cards or online wallets not linked to your main accounts
As a precaution, refrain from using your main credit and debit cards where scammers can siphon your life savings. Use online cards issued by your bank and preferably those with a fixed amount or a fixed credit limit. You can also use online wallets to prevent giving away your bank information to hackers.
- Read before you click
Beware of pop-up offers and forms you see online. Read carefully before you key in your information—some scam sites lure you into entering your sensitive details not for lead generation, but for scamming you in the future.
Shopping for medicines online is potentially unsafe for consumers. However, with the right education and information regarding scam and legitimate websites, consumers can make the accurate purchase decisions and avoid transacting with money-thirsty scam websites.