I was called by a colleague with a disturbing story of identity fraud that almost caught he and his local pharmacist out.
Imagine if you will your co-located pharmacist coming into your room holding a mobile phone asking for information.
At the other end was “Dr Jones from the emergency department” trying to get information about a critically unwell patient in the department – Mrs Smith is having seizures and we want to know more about her.
Fortunately, the doctor was in the middle of a procedure so responded with “I’ll call straight back”. Which he did – not to the mobile phone number the pharmacist was called from, but directly into the emergency department of the Gold Coast University Hospital.
There was no Dr Jones, no Mrs Smith. Odd, but decided no further action.
It turned out that Mrs Smith, a patient of the practice, had lost her handbag complete with a pharmacy receipt, business card of our colleague and a bank statement.
The call to the pharmacist was all about getting more identifying information. Apparently, this is a thing – with enough information the criminal would have free rein to harvest whatever was linked to the patient. The limited information he had still allowed $15,000 to be removed from Mrs Smith’s bank account.
In this case there was a happy ending, Mrs Smith’s bank refunded her the loss and increased security was discussed with her.
Please take care in providing any personal (or clinical) information to third parties, even those who at first glance may appear legitimate and calling with urgency. In our can-do approach to requests like this it perhaps wise to not respond directly, rather as in this case, to call ED / others back on published phone number and establish identity of the requesting health professional before providing any information. If in doubt, just say no.
Dr Roger Halliwell
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