Got a call for a prescription... across the country. Suspicious?
January 24, 2017 9:30 AM   Subscribe

I got a call to pick up a prescription... that I didn't ask for, and it's all the way across the country. The details got weird though. Should I be concerned?

On Friday, I got an automated call to pick up a prescription at a pharmacy in New York. Odd, because I don't have any prescriptions to pick up, and I'm not in New York. I ignored it, figuring "eh, crossed wires, blahblah".

This morning, the pharmacy called me again and left a voicemail, this time an actual human, saying they have a prescription under my name. WTF

I called them to see what's up. Apparently they have a prescription for me, for an inhaler. Uh, no, I don't need one, and I'm still not in New York. The head pharmacist came on the line, and said that while it's under my name, somehow the birthdate doesn't match up. Whoever this prescription was meant for, has a birthday that's the reverse of mine. So for example, if the patient's birthday was 1/35, then somehow it got entered as 5/31, which was my birthday (ok, obviously those aren't the actual birthdates, I'm using an example). The birthyear, however, is the same.

The pharmacist apologized for the mixup and went and deleted the prescription.

Now... I'm a little weirded-out. I was mugged in mid-November, my wallet and phone stolen. I'm concerned about medical fraud. I've checked for any suspicious claims on my health insurance regularly since then, and have found nothing. So maybe this really was an honest mistake... but how exactly does a pharmacy get my name and phone number just by looking up a (wrong) birthdate?

This was a Duane Reade pharmacy, so maybe they looked up my info through Walgreens' databases (I've had a couple of prescriptions filled there). But still... What?

Does this seem possible, and I'm overthinking this? Or is this actually suspicious, and if so, what should I do?
posted by curagea to Grab Bag (12 answers total)
If it were me I'd call my insurance and report this so it's on record and ask them for advice going forward. And let them know your insurance card was stolen previously.
posted by FireFountain at 9:35 AM on January 24, 2017 [10 favorites]

Frankly, the way I'm feeling these days about insurance companies, I wouldn't lift a damn finger to help them. Somebody needed an inhaler, but they probably didn't get it since you called and told the pharmacy they made a mistake. Somehow some of your info got mixed in there -- it could've been the pharmacy's mistake or sloppy record keeping by Duane Reade in general (Costco just recently got fined for something like this). You notified your insurance company and the pharmacy; imho, your job is done.

I personally would send a follow-up letter (and keep a hard copy for your records) to the insurance company reiterating that you did not and do not have a condition that requires an inhaler and the pharmacy made a mistake. That's just in case Obamacare truly does get canceled or if someday you want to purchase life insurance -- you don't want to be on record as having a pre-existing condition. If it weren't for those two things, I wouldn't give a toss. Insurance in our country is so messed up and ridiculous.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 9:56 AM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like a mistake was made. How would a grift like this work, and to what end?
posted by humboldt32 at 10:32 AM on January 24, 2017

This happened to me about a year after I left NY. I now live states away. In that case, it was just careless data entry. I have a super-common last name. Nothing ever came of it.
posted by mochapickle at 10:43 AM on January 24, 2017

I forgot to mention: I have never lived in New York.
posted by curagea at 10:46 AM on January 24, 2017

Duane Reade and Walgreens share all the same systems (rewards, point-of-sale, prescription, store brands) at this point, so most likely it's someone fat-fingering a row in the database. Whether that's at the doctors' office (maybe they use European date style instead of U.S.) or at the pharmacists, I couldn't say.

I'd potentially reach out to your insurer to see if the prescription was actually on your insurance, just to be sure. But I doubt this is a grift.
posted by thecaddy at 10:58 AM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Why do you think it was just a wrong birthdate? It's probably another Jane Smith, or whatever your real name is, with a birthdate that could pass for yours. They searched for Jane Smith, barely glanced at the birthdate, didn't look at anything else, clicked on that name because yeah, sure, obviously it's the right person. Unless you have the world's most unusual name, there is probably at least one other person with your name in the country, and probably many.
posted by Sequence at 11:29 AM on January 24, 2017

Did you ask who the prescribing doctor was to see if it was, perhaps, your doctor? This happened to me earlier this year -- a pharmacy I don't use (CVS) called my phone number asking me to pick up a prescription for a medication I don't take. I was suspicious that it was a scam too. But, it turned out that my doctor did some kind of mis-click when using whatever system they use to submit prescriptions electronically. There was no malfeasance, just user error on the doctor's office's end.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:54 AM on January 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

This sounds like a simple error. And yeah, the Walgreens nationwide patient database is probably to blame.

For a pharmacy tech to search the database, they need to enter (at least) the patient's last name and DOB. If there's only one result then it's automatically selected. Probably a harried tech flipped the DOB -- easy to do with our backwards-ass American dates -- and entered the prescription under your profile.

This stuff happens. Being way out of state should've looked fishy to them, but assuming this was an NYC pharmacy I wouldn't be surprised if they get a ton of out-of-state people. Inhalers are a popular "travel" prescription too.

So no, probably no fraud, and I wouldn't worry about it. A preliminary claim was run against your insurance but it was never finalized and will be reversed when the pharmacy deletes the prescription, kind of like a credit card pre-auth.

(Credentials: I was a Walgreens tech in a former life. Hell, I've probably made this exact mistake at least once.)
posted by neckro23 at 1:06 PM on January 24, 2017

This happened to me just last month with a Walgreens in Los Angeles. I live in a cornfield in Wisconsin. I didn't pick it up, obviously, so when they called I told them the scoop and he just said "Oh. Okay." and that was it.
posted by altopower at 1:21 PM on January 24, 2017

When I phone in a prescription for a patient the automated pharmacy voice mail systems ask me to leave name and DOB, no other patient information. Pharmacy techs are typically fairly overworked and I can see how a number reversal could easily have generated a prescription for the wrong patient.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 1:24 PM on January 24, 2017

Hmm, well, I called my insurance and they told me the most recent prescriptions. Nothing stood out to me as suspicious. They did give me the fraud hotline number in case this happens again.

I did get the name of the prescribing doctor. It's not anyone that I know (also works for a bank too, wut).

Gonna chalk this up to an honest-mistake moment. I do feel bad for the person in NYC who's trying to get that inhaler though. :(
posted by curagea at 5:10 PM on January 24, 2017

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