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Swab kit scam apparently unique

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

An apparent scam reported by a local cardiologist’s office that involved at least one patient receiving a home-delivered test kit apparently is unique.

A spokeswoman for the office of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said she spoke with members of the Consumer Protection division of the office and “it sounds like they haven’t received any complaints about a scam of this nature.”

Pulaski County cardiologist Dr. Ajaykumar Acharya reported to The Southwest Times Wednesday his office had received eight calls from patients indicating they received telephone calls and in at least one case a home-delivered kit appearing to come from his office. The calls spoofed Acharya’s office telephone number, making it appear on caller-ID to be coming from his office.

Acharya stressed his office is not making the calls or sending the kits. He urges any patients receiving a kit or call requesting sensitive information, such as social security or credit card numbers, to discard the kit and hang up on the caller.

In addition to concerns patients could fall victim to a financial scam, the doctor’s office also is concerned about the swab kit and why a scammer would pay to have a kit delivered to patients. FedEx delivered the kit that was received by one of the doctor’s out-of-county patients.

Referred to as a “cardiovascular kit,” instructions direct the patient to swab the inside of their mouth and mail the swab back to an address. Acharya’s concern is that the swab might contain a toxic substance or something else that could be harmful.

As of Friday, the office had not received any additional reports of kits being received by other patients; however, the office was closed Thursday due to icy weather.

Charlotte P.L. Gomer, Herring’s director of communications, suggested anyone who has experienced a situation such as this to make a report to the Consumer Protection division by calling 1-800-552-9963 or visiting www.oag.state.va.us/consumer-protection/index.php/file-a-complaint.

As a general rule, all everyone should be cautious of any requests for sensitive information unless absolutely certain of the requesting person’s identity.

Never rely on what a caller tells you over the telephone, email or internet and never use a kit delivered to your house unless you are certain you or your doctor ordered it. Spammers often spoof telephone numbers, so don’t rely on caller-ID to verify from where a call is being received.

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