Please Sign Below: Fraudsters Phishing for Physician Signatures

Almost every day I catch a suspicious fax needing my signature. Often it is an out of state vendor who wants my permission to provide a back brace for a diabetic patient, a continuous blood glucose monitor for a non-diabetic or a compounded (custom made) ointment of some sort that makes no sense from what I know of that patient’s history.

Often, I get a fax appearing to be from Walgreens, just asking me to sign and certify that so-and-so is under my care. Those faxes have Walgreen’s logo, my patient’s correct address and my own DEA and NPI numbers already printed. The problem is that 90% of my patients don’t use Walgreens 20 miles north or south of my clinic, but the local Rexall pharmacy. Once, I called the phone number on the fax and it just rang and rang.

I am convinced that his is just an illicit way to collect physician signatures, so the scammers won’t even have to get my signature on one form at a time. This way it’s like they’ve got their own rubber stamp to use again and again.

I suspect these scams are successful often enough to be quite profitable. I know this because I sometimes sign these forms almost automatically before I catch myself and toss them in the shred box under my desk.

One of the many dirty little secrets in medicine is that doctors get so many papers to sign that there is actually no way we could read them all before scribbling our signature if we still want to see patients, meet clinic revenue projections and match our own productivity quotas.

I used to joke that the only kind of paper in my clinic I didn’t have to sign was the toilet paper. In spite of our computers, we get more papers than ever before to sign. This is probably because everybody else, like the home health agencies, use their computers to generate more and more pages that require our signature.

The really disturbing thing about these scams is that these vendors are billing Medicare for things harried or otherwise inattentive doctors unwittingly “order”. The fact that they can bill Medicare means that they are somehow credentialed to do so.

It must therefore be way too easy to qualify for a place at the Medicare money trough.

3 Responses to “Please Sign Below: Fraudsters Phishing for Physician Signatures”

  1. 1 Dan Hayes (aka MIckey Mouse) April 23, 2021 at 10:13 am

    i once threatened my admin assistant that I was going to sign all the things put in front of me as “Mickey Mouse.” Then, if i don’t get feedback, I will be validated in my impression that no one looks at them, but that my work maintains the low unemployment rate in our region by keeping the bureaucrats busy shuffling papers. If someone does come to me with a concern (like, as you point out, this is medicare fraud), I could simply say “that’s not my signature – you need to go to Orlando and find Dr. Mouse” . But i’ve never had the courage to do this.

  2. 2 KLStelter April 24, 2021 at 9:55 am

    I have had many of these in the past. One was on a patient who had died several months earlier!! That definitely was a “tip off” something was amiss!! They seem to have much reduced frequency now for some reason. I asked our “legal team” to look into this and no response. I wish there was somewhere I could send these requests to be investigated further and stopped.

  3. 3 Eric W Metzler May 4, 2021 at 11:32 am

    Years ago when I was in Maine a company in Ohio asked me to sign for a power wheelchair for a paraplegic patient. I called the patient who said she only wanted a new wheelchair cushion. I wrote to the company asking for any reason I should not report them to the authorities. Some time later the FTC called me from Washington DC to verify that the letter they had found in the companies files really was from me, they were investigating for fraud.

    On the other hand since COVID I am trying to sign as many legitimate things electronically as possible, rather than physically go to an office to sign things – but it bothers me that a digital image of my signature could be easily copied and abused. I add text like “Adobe Sign – password controlled” and while that is usually OK with Medicare – anyone could do the same thing and impersonate me.

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