On June 5, 2014, the Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane warned consumers about unsolicited telephone calls from scammers claiming to be from a government or non-profit health organization, including the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED). Callers tell consumers that they are entitled to compensation as a result of a recent surgery. Consumers run the risk of identity theft and credit card fraud by providing information.
Although the caller may ask about surgery or a specific surgical procedure, the Attorney General’s Health Care Section, who was alerted to the scam by PAMED, does not believe that these callers have access to consumers’ medical information. Rather, they are hoping consumers will give it to them.
The calls come from a variety of numbers including an “844” toll-free area code and blocked numbers. Callers claim to represent a governmental or non-profit health agency. Some of the names used include: “Pennsylvania Medical Center or Society”, “United States Department of Health”, “United States Health”, “American Healthcare”, “County Medical Register”, and “Medical Helpline Center.”
PAMED would never make calls to consumers to seek out personal health and financial information.
The callers claim that consumers may be eligible for compensation relating to past surgery. The caller then probes for personal information, and possibly asks for money to secure the compensation. In an attempt to gain credibility through recent class action lawsuits advertised on TV, the scammers have mentioned surgical mesh and artificial hip implant procedures. Similar scams have been reported in other states, including New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Attorney General Kane has the following advice for consumers to protect themselves from these calls:
- Do not give out personal or medical information over the phone;
- Tell callers seeking medical information that they must contact your doctor – no scammer will do that;
- Do not send money for the promise of future compensation;
- Do not answer a call from a suspicious number. If you do, you let scammers know that your number is active and you may be the target of future calls;
- If you have given out personal information on one of these calls, check your bank account and credit card statements. Contact your bank or credit card company to remove any charges; and
- Report any suspicious phone calls to the Attorney General’s Office.
Consumers are asked to contact the Attorney General’s Office if they receive a suspicious phone call. The Health Care Section has a toll-free line, 1-877-888-4877, or consumers can file an online complaint at www.attorneygeneral.gov.