By Rod Moser, PA, PhD
I am notorious for having a messy office. It looks disorganized and cluttered but I know exactly where everything is, unless my wife moves something. After some considerable nagging, I decided to do an office make-over, getting rid of my furniture and getting built-ins. It was an amazing transformation to be able to see the floor (my auxiliary desk) again.
We usually give away unneeded furniture to our adult kids, or donate them to charity, but this time the kids had no room or desire for beloved office furniture, and I was too emotionally attached to it just to drop it off at Goodwill. I decided to try and sell it and use the money to help pay for the built-ins.
I put a free ad in one of those national “lists” we hear about, hoping to attract a local buyer. What I did attract was scammers, LOTS of scammers. Within an hour of my posting, the emails started pouring in.
All five inquiries wanted it immediately, sight unseen. They would mail me a check, money order, or purchase order and have their “shipper” pick it up. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who has their own shipper. They were desperate to get my home address and PayPal information. There were misspellings in their e-mails, improper English, and odd words capitalized. As much as I asked their address or phone number to prove they were local, the more they ignored this simple request. There were Red Flags waving all over the place.
A little bit of research revealed a well-used scam involving the trusted PayPal. Once the scammers know you have an account and other personal information (if you give it to them) and may be willing to go to the next level, they will send a phish – a legitimate-looking, fake e-mail that may say they are the security division and have “temporarily frozen your account” because of too many log in attempts. They want you to log in (with your password, of course) to verify your identity. Bingo. The scammers have what they need.
It really doesn’t matter what you are trying to sell or even buy, someone may try to take advantage of you. As a consumer of anything, including medical services, you must be diligent at all levels to avoid being scammed. People will copy or scan your credit cards for on-line purchases, scan your checks and order new ones, copy licenses or social security cards. They can become YOU faster than you think.
When I worked in urgent care, it was not usual to get people from out of town seeking care. Since we did not take cash or credit card info up front, they would often skip out, a prescription in hand, to “get their wallet out of the car,” never to be seen again. One “family” would keep coming back with the same insurance card, using the same name, but with different people, hoping we would not recognize them. They would even call to see who was on duty first. It is amazing how some medical providers do not seem to notice that on one visit a person weighed 115, only to gain 75 pounds on the next visit a week later!
Health care providers can scam patients, too, perhaps ordering unnecessary (and expensive) tests for personal profit (not just for comprehensive care or protecting themselves from malpractice), recommending repeat visits, or selling them vitamins or supplements that they just happen to have for sale. My wife’s friend once returned from a free chiropractic consultation with several hundred dollars worth of supplements. His testing proved she was “low” in all of the vitamins and minerals and that she needed to detoxify some environmental poisons she inadvertently acquired. Don’t always just take the doctor’s word for it: if something seems off, ask questions.
I have gone through life believing that most people are honest, but in the last few years, I feel that honesty often needs a bit of verification.