By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law There is an interesting phenomenon that pops up from time to time. It is the phony Department of Health letter. In 2008, we received information that letters, which appeared to be from the Maryland Department of Health (DOH), were being mailed out. The letters were mailed to residents of that state, advising the person that he or she was a carrier of a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The letters asked the recipient to contact the DOH. They were even written on official looking stationary. However, the letters contained numerous errors including grammatical mistakes. The letters also named employees that had never worked for the DOH. To read a previous press release from the Baltimore City DOH on the letters, click here.Somewhat similar letters have now circulated in Connecticut. The details on these will be discussed in Part 2 of this blog. Phony Maryland DOH Letters Littered with Errors.According to the Baltimore City DOH, three people confirmed receiving these fraudulent letters in 2008. The fake letters told the recipient that his or her name was provided by a patient with a communicable disease. It was advised that the recipients call a “Certified Public Health Agent” named “Mr. H. Lamping” to set up an interview. The fake letters also stated that the “Maryland State Department of Health” has been notified. All of the letters were signed by “Dr. A. Parks, M.D., Assistant Director of Health.”It was obvious these letters were part of a hoax, specifically because:
- The Baltimore City DOH does not have “Certified Public Health Agents”;
- The Baltimore City DOH does not have “Assistant Directors of Health”;
- The Baltimore City DOH never employed Dr. A. Parks, M.D., or Mr. H. Lamping; and
- The state health agency is not called the “Maryland State Department of Health.” It is called the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene.
Florida Pharmacies Receive Fake DOH Letters in 2012.In May 2012, we received notice from the Florida DOH that Florida pharmacies had been receiving fraudulent letters from someone claiming to be from "DOH Investigative Services." These fake letters also contained numerous errors including poor grammar, incorrect letterhead and an incorrect phone number. To read more on these phony Florida letters to pharmacies, and to see a redacted example of one of the fake letters, click here to read a previous blog.Motive Behind the Letters is Unknown.It is unclear what the purpose of these fake letters could be. They could be an attempt to defame the letter recipients whose name was included in the letters. They could be from an angry neighbor, former spouse, disgruntled customer or other person attempting to cause trouble. They could be an attempt to swamp the DOH with complaints or inquiries.What is immediately clear is that anyone writing these letters is of the unprofessional, amateurish nature, given the letters’ incorrect facts and terrible grammar. You do not find these types of mistakes in DOH correspondence.It is our opinion that the Florida DOH letters to pharmacies may have been part of an effort to con the pharmacies into paying “fines.” Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers. The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.Comments?Have you been a victim of this hoax? Have you been a victim of a similar hoax? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.Sources:Brown, Rianna. “Health Department Warns About STD Hoax.” Baltimore City Health Department. (April 16, 2008). From: http://baltimorehealth.org/press/2008_04_16.STDHoax.pdf
Fritze, John. “Police Investigate False STD Notification Letters.” Baltimore Sun. (April 17, 2008). From: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2008-04-17/news/0804170293_1_public-health-sexually-transmitted-disease-lettersAbout the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.Tag Words: Department of Health (DOH), scam, fake letter, hoax, health officials, DOH scam, DOH hoax, DOH investigation, scam alert, Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, Baltimore City Health Department, certified public agents, mail hoax, defense attorney, defense lawyer, health law attorney, health law lawyer, The Health Law Firm
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