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DEA Extortion Scams Resurface in California

On August 8, 2019, the California Medical Association reported that "Scam artists posing as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents are calling California physicians and consumers as part of an international extortion scheme. While the scam is not new—it’s been making the rounds for the past five years—a number of California physicians have reported recent extortion attempts." Below is the original advisory CAP published in January 2018.

A physician recently called our risk management hotline requesting help with a call from a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent. The caller demanded that she turn herself in to local law enforcement for writing fraudulent prescriptions and dealing drugs with the Mexican mafia.  He was intimidating and persistent, which led our member to disclose her personal identity and to confirm her medical license number. He tried to convince her to reveal her DEA number to him by reporting it stolen. Our member became suspicious and abruptly ended the call. Another physician reported that they received a call where the caller pretended to be a pharmacist and requested the physician’s DEA number. Upon being questioned, the caller was very rude and refused to answer questions.

Unfortunately, calls such as these are becoming more common. If you or your office staff receive calls like this, CAP’s Risk Management and Patient Safety team urges you to report them to your local DEA Division office. Their official website reminds us that agents never contact members of the public by telephone to demand money or any other form of payment. They instruct the public to complete the “Extortion Scam Online Reporting” form in order to assist them with investigating and stopping this criminal activity. We encourage you to report these calls to the FBI and to your local police department,too.

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Click this link for the DEA’s Diversion Control Division Alert-Extortion Scam and to access the reporting form.

Moreover, the Los Angeles Police Department offers these crime prevention tips to avoid falling victim of telephone extortion scams.  Be aware of the following:

  • Incoming calls made from an outside area code or country.
  • Callers who go to great lengths to keep you on the phone and insist that you remain on the line.
  • Calls that do not come from a recognized phone number or from the “victim.”
  • Callers who try to prevent you from contacting the “victim.”
  • Multiple successive phone calls.
  • Demands for ransom money or fines for payment via wire transfer.
  • Be suspicious of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason.
  • Never give out personal or financial information to anyone who emails or calls you unsolicited.
  • Never wire money, provide debit or credit card numbers to someone you do not know.

For more information, please visit these websites:

Authored by Amy McLain, BSN, RN
Assistant Vice President, Risk Management and Patient Safety


If you have questions about this article, please contact us. This information should not be considered legal advice applicable to a specific situation. Legal guidance for individual matters should be obtained from a retained attorney.