Physicians and other health professionals are the latest target of scammers who impersonate federal and state law enforcement officers. These scammers target licensed professionals, who are naturally inclined to cooperate with law enforcement. The scammers use the name of real law enforcement personnel, speak with confidence and authority, and have sophisticated technology that allows them to display the telephone numbers of actual local or government law enforcement facilities when calling a health care provider.

The scammers use numerous tactics to convince professionals that they are somehow involved with a legal matter. For example, they may convincingly explain that the health care provider:

  • is the subject of an investigation because a prescription they wrote was found at a crime scene;
  • missed a court appearance for which a warrant was issued or that is rescheduled in the near future;
  • was appointed to serve pro bono as an expert (by a state or federal judge) as part of a rotating system;
  • or is somehow otherwise involved in a legal process.

The calls often (but not always) come late in the week or over the weekend, when it is more difficult to verify the information. Nonetheless, the names and phone numbers used by the scammers will appear valid through a basic computer search and correspond with actual law enforcement personnel and facilities. To reinforce credibility, the caller may ask a provider to call them back at a number that checks out when looked up. They will then ask to call back due to a “spotty” connection. 

Because there is significant publicly available information about medical professionals, scammers come armed with detailed information that makes them appear more legitimate. This includes medical license, DEA registration, and NPI numbers; as well as personal and professional contact information, educational background, and practice specialty. They may specifically look at providers with a history of a prior lawsuit or discipline, to target those who have experience that may make them more inclined to avoid investigations or legal proceedings.

Scammers may tell a provider that they cannot give information or details because a matter is “sealed” or is part of an “ongoing investigation.” The scammers will attempt to obtain additional personal information to use in identity theft scams or convince the licensed professional that they need to pay a fine due to a missed appearance or inability to serve as appointed.

What to do If you receive a call

  • Do not provide any information. If you receive any call that you are involved in a legal matter or investigation, do not provide any information whatsoever. Take a name and call back number and let the caller know that you will need to speak with your lawyer. They may push back and tell you that “this is your only opportunity” to address the matter before some adverse consequence. Be firm and repeat that you will need to coordinate with your legal counsel. Absent a search warrant, there is never a requirement that you respond on the spot.
  • Call legal counsel. An attorney can evaluate whether there is an actual legal matter pending to which a response is required.
  • Reporting. If there is no actual legal matter pending and you have been the target of a scam call, the matter should be reported to DORA, local law enforcement, and the consumer fraud section of the Colorado Office of Attorney General. If the caller is impersonating a federal law enforcement officer, it may also be reported to the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI.

Categories: Communications, ASAP, Resources, Practice Management, Legal and Ethics