The Bulletin

Virginia’s Department of Health Professions is warning doctors: Don’t get scammed.

By: - March 12, 2021 12:02 am


Virginia’s medical professionals are among the most recent targets for scammers, according to the state’s Department of Health Professions.

In a release on Thursday, DHP warned that scammers have been contacting providers using spoofed telephone numbers and emails that appear to come from the department. The communications frequently demand payment to avoid license suspension or other legal actions.

“Their illicit demands have often been made using a telephone number that appears to be from DHP, or a fax or email on official looking letterhead or email address, and are accompanied by threats of arrest or suspension of a practitioner’s license unless fees are paid,” DHP Director David Brown said in a statement.  

Other scammers have posed as agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration or other health regulatory boards, according to the release. The department became aware of the scheme “over the past year” and alerted the more than 400,000 providers it licenses, which include doctors, dentists and nurses. 

Reports of the scam are “increasing,” according to the release, and aren’t just contained to Virginia.

“Last fall the FBI issued a Liaison Information Report to warn medical providers of a nationwide fraud scheme targeting them,” DHP stated.

Spokeswoman Diane Powers said the department doesn’t know exactly how many providers have been contacted as part of the scheme. Officials do know that scammers are still active in Virginia, she said, and that spoofed phone numbers — ones that appear to be from regulatory boards — are one of the most common tactics. 

DHP and the state’s 13 medical regulatory boards typically contact licensees four to six times a year through newsletters, briefs and other communications, according to Powers. But direct calls are more rare and never solicit personal details.

“DHP health regulatory boards and DHP staff never ask for confidential information such as a social security number, date of birth, or bank or credit card numbers, over the phone,” the release stated. 

The scheme has also targeted pharmacies, according to the DEA and National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, which issued its own release warning providers about the scam.

“Scammers are calling pharmacists claiming that they are state Board of Pharmacy inspectors or investigators and that their facility or individual license is under investigation,” the association said. “Scammers may also claim that they are working with the Food and Drug Administration or [DEA] on a case, and further claim that the licensee is under investigation for suspicious activity or drug trafficking.”

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Kate Masters
Kate Masters

An award-winning reporter, Kate grew up in Northern Virginia before moving to the Midwest, earning her degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. She spent a year covering gun violence and public health for The Trace in Boston before joining The Frederick News-Post in Frederick County, Md. While at the News-Post, she won first place in feature writing and breaking news from the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association, and Best in Show for her coverage of the local opioid epidemic. Before joining the Mercury in 2020, she covered state and county politics for the Bethesda Beat in Montgomery County, Md.