Spencer Dermatology Associates in Crawfordsville was getting a good response to an ad in their local newspaper for a new receptionist for the practice. Phone calls were coming in and resumes were arriving in the mail.
The only problem was: The practice never placed an ad and already had a receptionist.
The practice did have a long-standing account with the local paper and, as it turns out, someone else placed a classified ad using the practice’s name and address but a toll-free number. When the practice staff called the number, they were connected with a vendor trying to sell employment seekers $199 software for home medical billing.
“We called the newspaper to tell them we did not place the ad, and the newspaper staff quickly realized they had been duped,” said Janice Smith, practice manager for the office of Linda Spencer, M.D.
Since the ad request was called in late on a Friday for the weekend editions, the paper acted swiftly to include the ad in the next day’s paper, but failed to verify the source. Now they are out the money and Spencer Dermatology is out the time spent dealing with the situation.
Advice from the practice and local police
“This is a scam,” said Officer Jared Colley of the Crawfordsville Police Department.
“Ads are being placed fraudulently.” A second incident has now occurred, according to the police.
Meanwhile, Smith at Dr. Spencer’s office wondered, “How did they (the scammers) pick us?”
The ongoing account at the local newspaper served as a key element. Officer Colley recommended medical offices with open accounts for classifieds at their newspapers close those accounts. Begin paying for each ad as it is placed. Also, contact your local paper about the Montgomery County incidents.
“Local papers may need to change some policies too,” Officer Colley said. The newspaper involved in this incident now has a policy requiring staff to verify by calling back the contact after an ad is placed.
Dr. Spencer said, “My recommendation is to contact newspapers with which you have placed a classified ad in the past and tell them that under no circumstances are they to run an ad based on a phone call from someone claiming to be from the practice. All ads should be proofread and approved before running.”
Her practice has a history of always proofreading an ad before it’s printed. “By calling the newspaper on a Friday afternoon they certainly enhanced their chances of not having the call questioned, since there wouldn’t be time for proofreading,” the doctor noted.
Whether the 877 number in the ad is connected to a legitimate business remains unknown; subpoenas would be required to track the source. But the practice did report the incident to the local police, the state Office of the Attorney General – and to the ISMA so other medical offices could be alerted.
The officer believes the perpetrators that hit his town will now move to another part of the state.