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Rogue Websites Can Kill. Congress Needs to Act.

Rogue Websites Can Kill. Congress Needs to Act.

It’s difficult to believe that your life could be at stake with one click of the mouse. Sure, online shopping is convenient and cheap, but since when is it a health hazard? With the vast array of websites out there, even the most careful of consumers are easily duped into purchasing fake products. These counterfeit products pose a very serious health risk to consumers. Counterfeiting can kill. I know. It killed my close friend, Marcia Mooty Bergeron.

Marcia was an avid online shopper, so it didn’t surprise any of us to learn that she had purchased her prescriptions and over-the-counter pills online. What did surprise us was that the website she had been purchasing these medications from would ultimately be responsible for her premature death.

Marcia had moved a few years earlier from Iowa to a remote island in Canada, where excursions to the nearest city were costly and time-consuming. With limited resources on the island, she relied on the Internet to fulfill her shopping needs, including the purchase of medications. The last time I saw her was Christmas in 2006, Marcia had come down with symptoms that we dismissed as the common flu. Much to the shock of her friends and family, Marcia passed away the evening of my departure. The coroner’s report determined that my dear friend had died of cardiac arrhythmia caused by metal toxicity. Translation: the drugs found in Marcia’s system contained highly metallic and toxic material. Her medications were counterfeit and they poisoned her to death.

Marcia trusted this website to offer genuine medications. I fear that Marcia is not alone and that there any many others just like her who have been deceived and even physically harmed by rogue websites selling fakes. I miss Marcia. She was a good friend and a good person. Because of these heartless online criminals, Marcia isn’t around to help out her elderly neighbor or pitch in with her church’s charity efforts anymore. The worst part is that Marcia’s death could have been prevented had the government been given the tools to root out online counterfeiters. That is exactly why I support the efforts in Washington to enact legislation to cut off these sites from the U.S. market, such as the PROTECT IP Act (S. 968), that was introduced last May.

I commend Senator Patrick Leahy and the co-sponsors of the bill for their leadership and for recognizing the harm that these criminally-run websites present to the online consumers throughout the United States.

Online criminals run rampant without regard to U.S. laws. Because of what happened to Marcia, I don’t buy medicines or anything else on the Internet and I warn others about it, too. But the better answer to protecting consumers and businesses is to ensure that the Internet provides a safe and fair place for Americans to shop. It is my hope that Congress will enact rogue sites legislation soon to safeguard the Internet marketplace and protect consumers so we don’t lose any more great people like Marcia.

Glenda Billerbeck resides in Reinbeck, IA.

Visit www.fightonlinetheft.com to learn more about the PROTECT IP Act and to tell Congress to shut down rogue websites.