Another "Explain This Scam" Question
April 27, 2021 7:56 PM   Subscribe

Someone called our doctor pretending to be my parter and claiming to want to make a payment. What were they hoping to get?

Our doctor's office called us today to say that a woman with a strong Indian accent had called, claiming to be my (male, deep-voiced, Midwestern) partner, and claiming to want to make a payment. The office staffer asked the person to confirm my partner's birthdate; the caller instead gave my birthdate, and then, when that wasn't right, offered my partner's birthdate. The staffer, who wasn't born yesterday, ended the call and then let us know about it.

What was the caller after, do you think? The best thing we can come up with is that they were hoping to social-engineer access to a credit card number?

It's weird that they had both our birthdates, and knew that my partner, at least, sees this doctor. But we can't figure out what they were hoping to gain, or how they meant to harm us.
posted by Orlop to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My first guess as a person who is a little obsessed with scam true crime is that they wanted to use a fraudulent payment method and then call back for a refund through a different method, perhaps overpaying initially?
posted by ancient star at 8:09 PM on April 27 [8 favorites]

Not enough information. We've only seen the first move.
posted by kschang at 8:11 PM on April 27 [7 favorites]

It could have just been a phishing attempt for general information, though. If they know that you are a patient, you might want to confirm they haven't had any security breaches. That's a bit concerning!
posted by ancient star at 8:11 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]

Maybe the idea was to get the details of his last appointment, and then call him asking for payment for those services? Someone with all the correct information about what you'd last seen the doctor for would be very convincing.
posted by five toed sloth at 10:10 PM on April 27 [1 favorite]

Did you pay that doctor with a credit card? I'd keep an eye on it for suspicious activity.
posted by praemunire at 10:14 PM on April 27 [2 favorites]

Medicare and insurance fraud exists, it's conceivable this was the first step in some scam along those lines.

I think the other ideas (social engineering to get a credit card, or a classic refund scam) are more likely.
posted by mark k at 11:42 PM on April 27 [3 favorites]

Well, now they know your partner's birthday. Maybe it's a way to assemble fraudulent identity stuff.

So, yeah, I'd go ahead and lock down the credit reports.
posted by amtho at 12:30 AM on April 28 [4 favorites]

Them knowing that your partner sees this doctor is concerning. I would maybe contact your insurance company to see if they know how that might have happened and really make sure that you're shredding personal documents before throwing them out. And yeah, keep an eye out for identity fraud things in the near future.
posted by fight or flight at 5:38 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]

Are you sure the doctor’s office really called you? Could it have actually been the scammers? Many scams start by claiming something bad is happening...
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:07 AM on April 28 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for your thoughts. It does seem like the first step in, say, a refund scam, but it remains very weird that they called the doctor's office—and we do know it was the doctor's office who called, as it's a one-doctor practice with a small staff we know fairly well.
posted by Orlop at 6:26 AM on April 28

Check out "porting" on this list. They've matched a name and a birthdate and that can go a long way to faking your ID. Sounds like you want to watch your cellphone records, too.
posted by Miko at 4:01 PM on April 28 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Update: I think this may have been associated with an app I use for paying bills. A couple of weeks ago, I paid a pile of medical bills with it, and there are always one or two that don't work out somehow. Today, I got email notifications that two bills I had attempted to pay to this doctor had cleared. So, despite the confusing circumstances (the person said they were my partner?), it could have been customer service from that app.
posted by Orlop at 6:22 PM on April 28

Response by poster: Nonetheless, we will keep an eye on accounts, cellphone records, etc.
posted by Orlop at 6:22 PM on April 28

Somewhat dumb idea, but assuming it is the customer service for the bill paying app, perhaps they meant it along the lines of "bill-paying partner" rather than "marital partner". They were trying to explain they are a bill-paying company working on your behalf and they just mangled the explanation a bit or used some local-to-Indian-English expression that didn't quite come across.

Regardless of those particulars, it seems a strong coincidence that you were paying those bills with the app and the doctor's office gets a call regarding them as well. It's extremely likely there is some connection there - only questions are, what kind of relationship, and is it legitimate or illegitimate?
posted by flug at 6:48 PM on April 28 [4 favorites]

So, despite the confusing circumstances (the person said they were my partner?), it could have been customer service from that app.

You might want to clarify whether the person said "I am Orlop's partner" (there's lots of types of partners, business partners, etc), or if the person said "My name is *name of your romantic partner*". No idea what the scam is or if there is a scam, but this information could be useful to have just in case.
posted by yohko at 1:08 AM on April 30 [1 favorite]

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