The federal Drug Enforcement Agency in Seattle has issued a warning to Northwest residents about a dangerous scam.

The DEA regional office has seen a flurry of phone calls from victims of a scam involving drugs purchased over the phone or Internet.

DEA officials say it's part of an international extortion scheme in which people who've legally purchased drugs via websites or over the phone are contacted by someone claiming to be a DEA special agent. The "agent" informs this person buying drugs online or over the phone is illegal, and they must pay a fine to avoid prosecution.

Most of the victims are people who have made such purchases in the past. The DEA believes these scammers have been able to obtain names and contact information by hacking online or the telephone records of companies where the purchases were made. It is perfectly legal to purchase drugs over the Internet or by phone from legal, reputable companies.

The phony DEA agent then demands the person wire the money (and gives them directions on how to do so) or tells the victim to supply personal bank account number or credit card information. Several victims reported that once they provided the information they found fraudulent activity on the card. Some of the victims are from the Mid-Columbia region.

The Seattle office reminds citizens no one from the DEA -- or other federal agency -- would ever contact someone in this manner. If you receive any suspicious calls or contacts report them immediately to 1-877-792-2873.