Psychologists are reporting increased calls from telephone scammers who use licensure threats or book fake appointments to steal money from providers.
In one scenario, phone scammers pretending to be agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency tell psychologists that their license has been revoked as a result of an investigation by the Department of Justice. The scammers recite the call recipient's license and national provider numbers (NPI) and offer to reinstate the license if the call recipient pays them with bank information over the phone or by wiring money to an account.
Another scam involves someone calling — usually from out of state — asking to book an appointment and wanting to pay out-of-pocket in advance. The caller sends a check, often for more than the agreed upon rate. After the recipient cashes the check, the caller either cancels the appointment and asks for a total refund or asks for the difference for the “accidental” overpayment. The scam is that the cashed check is no good — but it takes the bank a few days to figure that out — so the psychologist ends up paying the fake patient with their own money.
To protect yourself and your money, here five things to remember about phone scams:
- Federal agents will never call you demanding payment over the phone. Hang up.
- Professional licenses are regulated by the state board, not federal law enforcement agencies.
- Licenses are suspended or revoked only after due process, or in extreme cases by emergency action by a state enforcement agency. If you’re in trouble, you will probably not first be informed over the phone by someone purporting to be a federal agent.
- New patients will not likely be eager to pay you in advance by check, especially if you’ve never met.
- Callers may try to sound legitimate by having your license and NPI numbers. Remember that this information is easily found online.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, fraud cost people $1.43 billion last year. As people become savvy to the swindles out there, scammers are becoming more cunning in their attempts to take your hard-earned money. And new technology makes it harder to differentiate fact from fiction. Con artists may use “spoofing” software, for example, causing caller ID systems to display a false number that might trace back to a state or federal agency.
If you receive a call from a scammer or believe you have been a victim of a phone scam, you can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
If someone has called you claiming to be an agent with the DEA, you may file a report this with the Drug Enforcement Agency.