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Not every email fraud smells like a time share sales pitch. Scammers may fool you initially with sly tactics. Meanwhile a real business call can seem fishy, and you don’t respond. Read below for the new variety of scams faced by dental office managers and doctors.
Frank Dorman, Federal Trade Commission Spokesperson, Washington, DC, said that often dentists unknowingly join a plan simply by accepting an introductory offer of some merchandise (toothbrushes, for example). “You will receive periodic announcements of merchandise that you can buy, sent to you automatically, unless you return the form rejecting the offer within the specified time.” By reading the fine print terms and conditions, Mr. Dorman said, you’ll learn what is expected of “membership” when joining a plan. If you determine you were duped, find out how and before when you must act to cancel.
Office manager Kristin Hallihan, who works in Kevin Boyd’s pediatric practice, can relate. She said in 24 years working in dental offices she’s seen two scams. “Someone called asking us to verify our copy machine’s or printer’s model number for an ink order shipment. They shipped seven or eight ink cartridges, billing hundreds of dollars on an invoice. We sent it back.
“When someone tries it now, we ask what company they’re with and they hang up,” Ms. Hallihan said.
The second scam is for those employment posters hanging in the break room. “Someone will call saying by law you are supposed to purchase them and hang them on the wall. It’s not true,” Ms. Hallihan said.
Her colleague, Georgina Boyd, said the scam she encounters is from a knock-off of the Yellow Pages: “When we got a bill in the mail for our listing in these dental-type yellow pages, I thought, ‘What the heck?’ When I read the fine print, it alluded to the listing as being an option.”
Mr. Dorman advised: “If you want to cancel your membership, send your request in writing. You need to send back the first item that is sent. You may consider any additional shipments as unordered merchandise and keep them as a gift.”
I recently received a letter from my car insurance company asking for details about my accident at a local intersection. I had not been in an accident. After some thought, I retrieved it from the trash. Using a phone number from my account records, I called my insurance agent.
Turns out, it was legit. A typographical error made when entering a license plate number into a database resulted in my plate on another's claim. It was easily cleared up — but had I ignored it, it may have worsened.
Likewise, if a dental insurer asks for data on services or patients you don't recognize, inquire with the insurer using a phone number from your records – not the number listed on the questionable inquiry.
An email with the return address of “firstname.lastname@example.org” circulated after April 15. It stated “we received your tax return and cannot process the tax return as filed." It continued that required documents had not been provided and the tax account has been locked. It asked for a copy of the filer’s valid U.S. or state I.D. to be mailed with this notification.
The problem? The IRS doesn't include any social security numbers or other personal tax account information in its emails and doesn’t want you to, either.1 If contacted by the IRS, call your local branch (www.irs.gov/uac/Contact-My-Local-Office-in-Illinois) to inquire if they contacted you.
Office staff can verify solicitations at www.snopes.com/search. A Snopes.com spokesperson offered this advice: “Choose a few key words from the item you're looking for and search. Searching for an article based on its title or opening line is not an optimal strategy, because those aspects are frequently altered through the process of chain forwarding. Likewise, searching on whole phrases will often fail to produce matches because the text of many items is quite variable.”
It’s okay to be neurotic. If the dental practice’s credit card bank contacts you for data, hang up. Call the service number on the back of the credit card to see if they are really trying to reach you.
1. Internal Revenue Service. Report phishing. Washington, DC: IRS; 2011. Accessed Oct. 2, 2012.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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