Online COVID-19 scammers are targeting vulnerable consumers worried about contracting the virus.
The State Medical Board of Ohio is warning physicians about an extortion scam involving the suspension of medical licenses. The scam is not exclusive to clinicians practicing in the state and several others have issued similar warnings. According to the Ohio Medical Board’s press release, “scammers who claim to be from the U.S. Department of Justice call or fax prescribers, telling them they are being investigated for drug trafficking and their license has been suspended.” In order to resolve the issue, they are telling call recipients they can paid fines over the phone.
“During one reported incident, the scammers called the physician’s office, faxed a fraudulent document to the physician using the State Medical Board of Ohio’s logo and used spoofing technology, so it appeared they are legitimately calling from the board’s office,” the warning said.
As part of its release, the medical board is reiterating to practitioners that it will never ask them to pay fees over the phone or send material via fax and official notices are always sent via certified mail or by personal service. If a physician is questioning the legitimacy of the request, medical license suspension details and fines can be found at eLicense.ohio.gov or the board can be contacted directly.
The Virginia Department of Health Professions posted a similar notice in September warning that scammers are claiming to be from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy or the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA has issued its own cautionary release informing individuals that scammers in California are posing as DEA agents requesting payment of fines be made via wire transfer.
The DEA’s official notice indicates, in part, “The Medical Board of California (Board) has learned that scam artists posing as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents or Board staff are calling California physicians as part of an extortion scheme. The scammers identify themselves as DEA agents or Board staff calling about ongoing investigations regarding their license issued by the Medical Board of California (Board)…The scammers may provide an ‘Agreement for the Bond and Protocols’ that includes statements that licensees are not to share or disclose the investigation to any third party and agree to a bond fee payment of $25,000.00.”
The Texas Medical Board also reported the same issue earlier in the year. Both Texas and California warn that the criminals may mask their telephone number on caller ID by displaying the DEA Registration Support 800 number. California reported that the scammers “may speak in an urgent and demanding tone” and may provide an “agreement for bond and protocols,” saying the physician “must not disclose the investigation to any third party and must agree to a bond fee payment of $45,000.”
The North Carolina Medical Board said targets are told they are “under investigation and were threatened with disciplinary action unless they made a payment immediately.” Some were even told their license “was expired and could not be reinstated without immediate payment.” The state is asking any providers who did give out credit information to notify their card company and put a temporary hold on their account.