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Protect your practice from scams targeting psychologists

Telephone cons threaten psychologists with fines and arrest. Here’s what you need to know.

Cite this
Larson, S. (2021, October 6). Protect your practice from scams targeting psychologists. https://www.apaservices.org/practice/business/hipaa/protect-telephone-scam

Telephone scammers posing as members of law enforcement are calling practicing psychologists, demanding that they pay money to satisfy a fine and avoid arrest.

Alleged perpetrators are calling psychologists pretending to be police officers and informing them that there was a warrant out for their arrest because of a failure to honor a subpoena to testify as an expert witness. The psychologists reported to APA that the callers told them to either go to the police station for immediate arrest or pay a fine over the phone or in person at a suspicious location.

Callers in these scams provided psychologists with credible details about judges and legal cases, the names of actual, retired police officers, and information about the psychologist’s practice, including addresses and phone numbers. Scammers have gone so far as to create background noises to mimic a police department. Some psychologists who were targeted said they avoided being scammed by calling their local police departments to verify the existence of a warrant.

This scam is the latest example of increasingly sophisticated illegal efforts targeting psychologists. There are many different types of phone scams that involve legal questions, charities, and the promise of prizes. To avoid being a victim, watch for these warning signs that may signal a phone call is a scam:

  • Unsolicited calls from people claiming to work for government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service, police, or courts seeking to collect fines. Most local and governmental agencies will reach out to you by mail, not by phone, if there is an issue.
  • Unsolicited calls that demand immediate payment of court costs or fines over the phone or at a suspicious location. Most court-related payments are made at the county clerk’s office—and you would have been advised in writing through the issuance of a court order.
  • Unsolicited calls seeking donations for charities, especially after a disaster. Charitable organizations must introduce themselves, and you should do your due diligence before giving any money.
  • Calls pitching products that seem too good to be true, such as cash prizes, travel deals, and free product trials. Listen for phrases such as “You’ve been selected for this offer” or “You have won a prize, but we need to charge you shipping charges.”
  • Callers who pressure you to respond or agree to any requests as soon as possible.
  • Callers who ask for your financial information. Never give your financial information to callers you don’t know.

If you get calls like these, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is calling and why? If the caller claims to be law enforcement, have you received anything in writing? If not, hang up. If the caller claims to be representing a charity, are they providing the right information? Under the law, telemarketers must tell you it is a sales call, the name of the seller, and what they are selling.
  • What is the timetable? Are you being pressured to give information or provide payment immediately?
  • Are you being threatened with arrest or suspension of your license? If so, hang up and call local law enforcement to verify claims of a warrant or outstanding fine.
  • If you have won a “free” gift, why would you have to pay shipping and handling charges?

If you are suspicious of the caller and believe it is a scam, hang up. You are under no obligation to be polite or to continue a conversation.

Report scams to your local police department, the Federal Trade Commission, or the appropriate federal agency the caller indicated they were representing.