Are you with the FBI, or the F-I-B?

Scammers targeted a local medical board in the name of the FBI.

Here’s a story you need to share with your licensed professionals. Last week a physician called me in a panic. A member of the local medical board had called him, and then patched in an FBI agent. During the call, they told him that his license had been summarily suspended. He was under suspicion of violation of narcotics laws after a variety of his personal information, including prescriptions, had been found in a car in Texas that contained a large quantity of Oxycontin. The agent told him that the other members of his group and he were all targets of a criminal investigation. Because they were all under investigation, the agent told him not to talk with anyone at the group about the investigation.

The physician expressed shock to me. He had no idea what was going on. The agents told him that they had to send him a confidential letter about his suspension. They had sent it by fax, and it had been sent from the U.S. Department of Justice. That was the first clue that something seemed amiss. He told me the names of the investigators. He explained that the night before, after they had talked for an hour, the agents told him about the letter. They said that because the letter was confidential, rather than faxing it to his practice, they would fax it to a nearby Federal Express location.

Now I was very, very suspicious. Agents don’t fax things very often, and they NEVER fax them to the local copy shop. I interrupted his story to ask if he could immediately send me the letter, which he did. It looked pretty authentic. It had the same font that the local board uses, and their correct address and phone number. There was an official-looking logo. I didn’t recognize the name of the investigating agent, but I don’t know every agent at that board, just most of them. I also know the executive director of the board, and her name didn’t appear on the letter. Instead, there was a signature from a man purporting to be the “Licensing Board Authority.” I told the doctor I wanted to put him on hold for a moment so I could check the authenticity of the letter. 

I called the board, using the phone number I Googled, having a near certainty of what was about to happen. “I have a letter from someone named Brad Gibson who purports to be with the board. Do you have such an agent?” Nope. The letter was fake. The people purporting to be with the FBI and the medical board were not. This was a con.

I’m not entirely sure what the endgame was. They hadn’t yet asked for any money. I assume that was coming, but after spending over an hour talking with the doctor, they hadn’t yet. Perhaps they were planning to use some other personal information. A bank account? I don’t know quite where the scheme was going, but I know that not only did it scare the doctor, it caused him to cancel upcoming clinic days, because he thought his license had been suspended.

I did some quick research and called the executive director of the board. A variant of this scam had been pulled on a number of people. It resulted in cancellations of clinic visits and surgeries by people thinking they were unlicensed. We also called the real FBI.  

What’s the lesson? Don’t believe people who call you claiming to be government agents. It is possible that they are authentic. Agents do call. But don’t assume they are genuine. And as you try to figure it out, caller ID is useless. Individuals here had spoofed the number, so it appeared to be from the FBI. The fax had a 202 area code, and a header from the Department of Justice. But it wasn’t real.

Whenever you get contact from a government agency by phone, look the agency up on the Web and call them back using the number you pulled from the Web to verify the authenticity of the agent. Don’t use the number in the caller ID, a letter, or the information given by the person on the phone. It is important to be skeptical, and to verify the identity of people. Scared people don’t think clearly, and few things are as scary as being told you are under criminal investigation and your license has been yanked. Scammers count on the paralysis of fear. You need to train everyone to be able to recognize scams like this one.

Programming Note: Listen to David Glaser’s live reporting every Monday with his Risky Business Report on Monitor Mondays, 10 a.m. Eastern.  


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