scam caller

You answer the phone with full belief that the voice on the other end of the line is someone who needs help. As mental health professionals that is your job, helping others so you listen with an open heart. Unfortunately, scam artists not only know that. They practice using your core principles against you. 


Recently, I learned that some therapists have been duped by scammers. It is certainly understandable because mental health professionals are eager to help. That is why they are in business. However, when someone tells you they don’t have money, you have a variety of options. You can offer a sliding scale or direct them to a church or non-profit agency. Some CAP members consistently offer services to the poor by working for low rates at non-profits. Some work for donations through churches. Another way to provide mental health services to those in need is to volunteer at agencies or prisons. 


As mental health professionals, we want to serve not to be scammed. A key tool we all use is questions. When your heartstrings are being pulled, stop, breathe and ask questions of yourself.  When a potential or current client wants you to pay for services, remember to ask yourself, “In a client-therapist relationship, who pays who for services?” Or you might ask yourself questions such as: “Why do I want to pay for xyz for this person?” “How does paying for their costs benefit our relationship?”  


Also, questions can help you discover a scammer and sometimes send the scam artist on his or her way. The caller attempting to bait me was not even calling for services. The man identified himself as being with the Social Security Administration and that because my Social Security number had been used inappropriately and I was going to have to pay fees. Before he told me how much I owed, I asked him where he worked. Speaking quickly and with what sounded like an Indian accent,  he gave me some title that included the term ‘officer’. I said to him in a calm voice, “So sorry, you did not understand my question. What is the address of the building where you work? I used to live in Washington, D.C.” He hung up on me. 


Another caller identified themselves with some state government agency and told me I was going to be arrested if I didn’t give them a bunch of information to clear up the matter.  I listened and then stated I certainly hoped they knew that impersonation of a government official, not to mention threatening someone, was a felony. During the silent pause, I asked, “Do you know the people engaged in such activities are the ones that go to prison?” As they attempted to challenge me, I kept asking for things such as their supervisor’s name and other items that I could verify. They hung up on me. 

The next call you get from someone asking for money, your bank account # or other personal information, set your emotions aside and ask a few questions. If real, you will learn valuable information that will enable you to assist a potential client. If a scam, you might be lucky enough that they will hang up on you.  


  –  Carol O’Dowd