On Aug. 22, the FBI issued a press release warning those employed in the healthcare industry of scammers that are impersonating law enforcement or government officials in attempts to extort money or steal personally identifiable information (PII).
The release states that “Scammers, as part of a large criminal network, research background information of their intended targets through a medical practice’s website and/or social media and supplement this information with information found on common social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc., to make themselves appear legitimate.”
Further, “Scammers will often spoof authentic phone numbers and names and use fake credentials of well-known government and law enforcement agencies to notify the intended target they were subpoenaed to provide expert witness testimony in a criminal or civil court case. The healthcare professional is notified since they did not appear in court, they are in violation of the subpoena, have been held in contempt, and an arrest warrant has been issued for them.”
The release continues to explain that the targeted victim will be told if they pay a court fine they will no longer be held in contempt. The scammers are said to use an “urgent and aggressive tone” along with other scare tactics like claiming the target victim is being watched and an arrest warrant involving an early morning police raid. Additionally, the targeted victim is told that non-compliance will result in their medical license being revoked.
That said, the payment is demanded in different forms, mostly prepaid cards, wire transfers, and cash, sent by mail or through cryptocurrency ATMs. The targeted victims are then asked to read prepaid card numbers over the phone or via a text message picture of the card. Cash in the mail will be packaged in a way to avoid detection by scanning devices and wire transfers are usually sent overseas. Sometimes in person cash payments or drop offs are done.
“If victims make money payments, a new reason to send additional funds is used, such as additional court costs for having to continue the court hearing,” the release notes. “Often the scammers will change tactics and impersonate law enforcement officers stating their victim has been identified as a participant of a scam and are currently under investigation for their part in sending money to the criminals. They are then told another payment will exonerate them from their part of the scam.”
The release suggests ways to protect oneself from these scammers, including:
- Being aware that law enforcement or government officials will never contact individuals by telephone to demand any kind of payment or to request PII. Legitimate investigations or legal actions are done in person or by official letters
- Request credentials to verify identity
- Understanding that no real law enforcement or governmental official will request payments via prepaid cards or cryptocurrency ATMs
- Never giving PII to anyone without validating the person is who they say they are
Additionally, the release says that if you are a victim, cease all contact with the scammers at once and notify your financial institutions and take steps toward safeguarding any financial accounts. Moreover, contact local law enforcement to file a police report and file a complaint with the FBI IC3. Lastly, keep financial transaction information, including prepaid cards and backing records, and all communications (telephone, text, and/or email).