But I'm NOT The One Who Knocks!
April 7, 2015 5:22 PM   Subscribe

I went to pick up cold medicine today. Because I don't mess around, I went to the pharmacy counter to get something with pseudoephedrine. But the pharmacist scanned my ID and said that according to the FDA records, I'd already reached my pseudoephidrine quota for this month and she couldn't sell me any. I have not purchased any cold medicine in three months, though. What's going on?

The pharmacist was going off of the results she got when she scanned my NY State drivers' license with a little ray-gun thingy. Apparently, entering my info gave her the alert that I'd already bought my limit, even though I've not gotten anything cold-related in months; I got something back in December, but that's been it.

So I have two questions, actually -

1. Do I have cause to suspect some kind of identity theft? That somehow someone got my drivers' license number and is using it for weird purposes? (What CAN be gotten with a drivers' license number?)

2. How in the hell do I get my cold medicine? Can I just use a different ID, like my passport?

posted by EmpressCallipygos to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have no idea about #1, but if I was you I would try asking my friends if anybody had any or could pick up some for me, since they might not have hit any limits and would be able to, while I figured out #1.
posted by foxfirefey at 5:50 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd call your local non-emergency police report line. Who knows how far this reaches or who else it affects. Police like this kind of info.
posted by taff at 5:56 PM on April 7, 2015 [15 favorites]

I believe NPLEx is the system used to track these things. You could try contacting them, though they may refuse to tell you anything of use.
posted by zachlipton at 6:01 PM on April 7, 2015

I would really, really recommend not using your passport or any other ID. First of all, they may not accept it, and secondly, if they do put two and two together, they'll be way more likely to assume that you're up to something nefarious.

I would either ask a friend for some cold meds as mentioned above, or I would just stick with mucinex and acetaminophen, which is what I usually do since I've had bad reactions to pseudoephedrine in the past.

On preview, I agree with taff about using the non-emergency police number, and see what they have to say. If you wanted to be extra safe, you might try running a free credit check as well as looking over your recent banking history to see if there are any other signs of identity theft.

However, my completely uneducated guess is that this is most likely some sort of clerical error, but it's definitely worth pursuing to see if you can get a better answer.
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:02 PM on April 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

A passport definitely qualifies as ID for such purposes, but I agree with other comments that this would be worth looking into further.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 6:12 PM on April 7, 2015

My partner had this happen to him once. I was there and bought it for him instead, so that solved problem #2 for us. I think as litera scripta manet suggests it was just a weird clerical error. This was 4 or 5 years ago, and he's been able to buy it since then and he hasn't had any weird identity theft issues.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 6:44 PM on April 7, 2015

I would not endorse a plan that involves calling a police number and saying you're having trouble buying something which happens to be the raw materials to make meth. Some may view this as a much more innocent thing, as just a heads up that the alert system may be broken. I do not quite have that level of faith in law enforcement and if you were someone in my life, I would implore you not to do so either. Police tend to view everything in the least charitable light.

Double checking other aspects of your personal data for other signs of identity theft is a great idea, though.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:03 PM on April 7, 2015 [10 favorites]

Meth dealer: would not call the police. Innocent person: would probably call the police, and also ask about whether this could be related to identity theft.

I would definitely get a copy of your credit reports and lock down credit reporting (take the necessary identity protection steps, in other words). I might even hire a monitoring service, but I'm getting a bit worried.
posted by amtho at 8:35 PM on April 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

(What CAN be gotten with a drivers' license number?)

Well... pseudoephedrine! Given that it was over the limit it actually seems likely to me that someone may have spoofed your ID to buy it. If you're comfortable dealing with the police, the advice in this Reddit thread is to file a fraud report. (Someone else mentioned that Rite-Aid gives you a receipt with a number to call to check your purchases, but that might just be purchases with them specifically.)
posted by en forme de poire at 8:48 PM on April 7, 2015

Definitely call the police. I think dealing with the very real possibility of someone stealing your identity to buy drugs is worth the potential hassling from the police for meth production.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:33 PM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

I could see being hesitant to go to the police with this, but aside from the potential financial repercussions of ID theft, I would personally want to try to figure out if a meth addict somewhere is using my ID to stock up on meth ingredients, and that's why I would be inclined to suck it up and file a report with the police. I would definitely focus on the identity theft concern, rather than getting them to fix things so you can go buy pseudo ephedrine.

Maybe it would help if you filed a report in person at your local precinct. I feel like if you show up dressed nicely (like business casual as opposed to sweat pants), and if you're polite and to the point with your concerns, that would probably go along way to making things go more smoothly.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:01 PM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Do you have a regular pharmacy? I am (sadly) on a first-name basis with everyone at my local pharmacy and if this happened to me at an "away" pharmacy I would go in, explain what happened, and ask someone if they can look into it any further on their end and/or tell me where to start to straighten this out. (They very well may have a special number to report suspicious purchases.) I would not put them in a potentially awkward position by mentioning that you want to purchase any.

And yes, I think someone is making meth in your name. Even if you don't have a regular pharmacy I would go back to that one and ask what steps you should take. Also, ask them if there is something they can print out for you. If you end up talking to the cops that will give you some extra cover of legitimacy.

Can I just use a different ID, like my passport?

I assume that your name is associated with your drivers license number in the database. Personally, I would not risk the system cross-checking names regardless of the ID presented and looking like I was trying to circumvent the law or even worse, being "flagged" by "the system."

I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the pseudo is purchased by spoofed IDs since most people will only buy it a few times a year at most but you just happened to get the timing right.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:27 AM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Somebody might have stolen your identity, but equally likely is somebody in the pharmacy stealing drugs and using pre-existing customer accounts to hide it.

I'd go back to the pharmacy and get a list of these supposed transactions, and then go to the police (well I'd go to NHS counterfraud, but I guess you don't have anything similar).
posted by tinkletown at 3:11 AM on April 8, 2015 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Well, fortunately this seems to be a low-impact cold, so I think I may actually be able to soldier on WITHOUT drugs. The identity issue is more what's spooking me.

There seems to be a difference of opinion in here about how to proceed with that, so I'mma split the difference - how does it sound to call that pharmacy and ask how I can get a list of those supposed transactions, and then cross-check that and see whether they were me (i.e., if any of them happened in a place I wasn't, then it obviously wasn't me), and if any of them sound fishy, THEN I go to the police?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:44 AM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: In other words, exactly what tinkletown just suggested.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:45 AM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Welp, my pharmacy said they don't have that list and suggested I call New York's 311 non-emergency help line. And the poor guy I spoke to at 311 didn't even know what I was talking about (I had to explain to him that asking for pseudoephedrine behind the counter was even a thing).

Have emailed my doctor for advice, on the principle that with a health-related issue, a doctor would logically at least know how to obtain health-related information.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:38 AM on April 8, 2015

Honestly, IF it is the case that someone has stolen your identity in someway and is using your ID to purchase meth supplies, I think it's a lot more likely that you run into trouble for that by NOT reporting the situation. I would go down to the police station to report the situation, not from the perspective of "Help me buy some sudafed!" but from the perspective of "I'm very concerned that my identity has been stolen and is being used to purchase drugs, what do I do?". Even if all that happens is that you file a report, this gives you plausible deniability if this becomes an issue in the future. (For example, in at least some states I believe you can be arrested just for making the attempts too many times.)
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:02 AM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Talk to a real police officer, not 311. Law Enforcement has access to NPLEX. You'll probably need to get a new driver's license number. You could also call NPLEX directly.
posted by amaire at 8:41 AM on April 8, 2015

This has happened to me twice. Both times I informed the pharmatech that there must be some error because I have not purchased any pseudophed products in months, and to please scan my license again. Both times, the second pass of my ID worked. Software glitch?
posted by zakur at 8:41 AM on April 8, 2015

Response by poster: The pharmacist scanned it about three times.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:48 AM on April 8, 2015

If the pharmacist who scanned your ID is the same one who told you that you can't have a list of your transactions, it may be the pharmacist that scanned your ID three times for three dispenses plans to put the money in the register and take the dosages him or herself. I'd be surprised if your identity was stolen, I bet it just happened at point of sale, and it may have happened with you watching.
posted by juniperesque at 8:54 AM on April 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Have you checked the NPLEx database:

posted by zakur at 9:06 AM on April 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'd go to the pharmacy and insist on speaking to a manager. They should be able to shed some light on what data is available and where the data comes from. Then you can perhaps follow-up with the agency the is keeping or tracking the data. (On preview, looks like zakur's link may be exactly that.)

As for the police, I would ask to speak with a detective in whatever the narcotics division is that deals with meth. It looks like 311 is for public records type stuff and parking tickets. You need to talk to the actual police who deal with drug dealers. Call a non-emergency number for your local police department, or just go down there.

If someone was using my ID to buy supplies to make meth, I would definitely not call a municipal complaint line (311) and give up that easily. I don't think this is issue for your doctor -- I definitely think you should file a police report.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:42 AM on April 8, 2015

Response by poster: The NPLEx database is EXACTLY what I was looking for! How would I get the "transaction ID" that they ask for to enter that in?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:03 AM on April 8, 2015

Response by poster: I just called my pharmacy again to ask about the "transaction ID". She told me that it most likely would be on a receipt; I did get some vitamins anyway, so I'll check that receipt tonight and see if it has a transaction ID that I can plug into that NPLEx database.

The pharmacist also said, though, that just my drivers' license number alone wouldn't be enough; someone would have to have had an exact copy of my actual physical license card to make a purchase (they also record the expiration date, address, and a ton of other info). My license is rarely out of my wallet (I think maybe I took it out for three seconds for the security guys at work to look at when I forgot my ID yesterday) and my wallet is rarely away from my person, so unless my roommate has been up to some VERY nefarious stuff in the middle of the night, this is looking much more like a weird computer/clerical problem. Which is comforting.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:21 AM on April 8, 2015

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