Scammers, Scammers Everywhere

You are a physician, and probably consider yourself an expert on spotting a scam. But if you do something newsworthy, you may find yourself surprised anew.

I thought I had seen it all—or at least most of it—when it came to scams.

I had the friend who had once been tricked into the expensive “professional photo shoot” on the way to being a high-priced fashion model. I have read with bemused disinterest the plight of the Nigerian political official who needed to deposit millions of dollars into my bank account. I know that any e-mail warning you receive about a really dangerous virus, and asking you to send the warning “to everyone in your in-box,” is in itself a virus. I don’t respond to e-mails that look like they want to verify my e-Bay account number. (I don’t have an e-Bay account). I have been the recipient three too many times of the Amway pitch, and how it is decidedly NOT a pyramid scheme. Snopes.com is one of my bookmarks.

So imagine my surprise when I failed to alert a colleague to a simple bait-and-switch scam. She had issued a press release about a recent advantageous accreditation. He was a representative of Sky Radio Network, the “producer of the #1 radio talk shows in the sky,” who wanted to interview her about the news for broadcast on American and Northwest airlines flights, among others.

After an initial phone call and a 1-hour follow-up conference call, all under the guise of legitimate editorial interest, my colleague received the “contract offer” over e-mail. Paragraphs and paragraphs of text listing high-powered officials who were also participating in a “21st Century Healthcare Forum.”

All very impressive, no? Then, deeply buried in the 15th paragraph, was this innocuous little nugget that had escaped mention in all previous conversations: “Distribution Fee (one-time/all-inclusive): USD $4,995.”

this,

that.

Ahhhh, and now it all becomes clear. The classic bait and switch! This looks like but it’s really

Of course, a little research on my part would have shined a brighter light on this from the get-go. And some slightly more aggressive questioning of the Sky Radio representative probably wouldn’t have hurt.

You are a physician, and therefore you also probably consider yourself an expert on spotting the scam. But if you invent some wonderful medical device, or contribute to a great study, or do something else newsworthy, you may find yourself surprised anew. Even if you don’t do any of those things, however, it’s worthwhile to be reminded every now and again that things are not always what they seem.