She was terrified.

Sheriff Tommy Bryant said he received a telephone call from an Erath County resident last week, who was "extremely frightened" by a call she had just received.

Bryant said the woman reported that a "special agent" with the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) had contacted her and issued an ultimatum - pay a fine or go to jail.

According to Bryant, the "agent" told the resident that she had violated federal law when she ordered prescription medications online.

The agent also said if she did not immediately pay the fine by sending payment through Western Union or by credit card over the telephone, local law enforcement officials and federal agents would descend on her home.

The fictitious official said her property would be seized and she would face prison time or deportation.

Last December, the FDA issued a warning detailing the scam at www.fda.gov, which said international extortion scammers demand the payment of a $100-$250,000 fine, and usually order that the fine be wired to the Dominican Republic.

"Impersonating an FDA official is a violation of federal law," Michael Chappell, the FDA's acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said in the news release. "The public should note that no FDA official will ever contact a consumer by phone demanding money or any other form of payment.

The release also states that FDA special agents and other law enforcement officials are not authorized to impose or collect criminal fines.

"Only a court can take such action, with fines payable to the U.S. Treasury," the reports states.

In addition to impersonating FDA officials, scammers have also reportedly posed as agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Secret Service and U.S. Customs Service.

Bryant said the FDA is investigating the claims.

Bryant said anyone who receives a similar call from someone claiming to be with the FDA or other law enforcement agency should avoid falling victim to the scam and call the FDAs Office of Criminal Investigations Metro Washington Field Office at (800) 521-5783.

While the FDA says they will never make such calls, they do warn of other potential risks associated with purchasing medications on the Internet or by telephone.

"The FDA also reminds consumers to use caution when purchasing prescription drugs over the telephone or the Internet. In addition to the increased risk of purchasing unsafe and ineffective drugs from Web sites operating outside the law, there is the danger that personal data can be compromised," the FDA says.

For more on the FDAs concerns about unlawful drug sales on the Internet, see http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ProtectYourself/default.htm.

If you have questions regarding other potential scams or to report a scam targeting locals, call the Erath County Sheriff's Office at 254-965-3338.

"In today's world, there is a scammer looking to take advantage of citizens every time they turn the corner or pick up the telephone," Bryant said. "If there is ever a question or concern, give law enforcement officials a call before you become a victim."