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Beware of Individuals Impersonating the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy (or other Regulators)

Health & Life Sciences Simone Colgan Dunlap

Male doctor writing medical prescription or certificate

The Arizona State Board of Pharmacy (Board) issued an alert on March 11, 2021, warning licensees and permit holders to be wary of a sophisticated scam involving letters and in some cases phone calls from individuals claiming to be Board staff or law enforcement. The phone calls “spoof” the Board’s telephone numbers so they appear to originate from the Board. The Board reports that the tone of these communications may be hostile. The goal of the scam appears to be to obtain to request a transfer of funds on the basis that the payment is required to prevent a specific action, for example, suspension of a license. Samples of fraudulent letters are available on the Board’s website.

The scam appears to be the latest iteration of similar schemes where imposters posing as regulators are targeting health care providers and attempting to extort money or obtain personal information. As we reported in April of last year, the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued an alert on April 3, 2020, to warn HIPAA covered entities and business associates that an individual was contacting covered entities and attempting to obtain Protected Health Information (PHI) by posing as an OCR investigator. Similarly, in October of 2020, the FBI’s Office of Private Sector issued a Liaison Information Report detailing multiple variations of this scam that are occurring across the country. The FBI noted that criminals engaged in these activities use multiple tactics to appear legitimate to providers. Like the most recent Arizona scheme, the criminals “spoofed” phone numbers and offered fake names and badge numbers to try to make it appear that they were calling from governmental agencies. In addition, they may utilize multiple methods (e.g., e-mail, phone) of communicating with the providers, contact them repeatedly, may express that the “investigation” needed to be resolved urgently. Scammers may also provide details about the providers, such as full names, professional licensing numbers and state that providers are prohibited from contacting any third party regarding the investigation.

Best practice to avoid falling victim to these types of scams include:

  • Any request for money or other payment from a regulatory agency, like the Board, or a law enforcement agency should be treated as suspicious.
    • Be aware that no agent of the Board will ever contact a licensee or permit holder via the telephone to demand a payment over the phone.
      • Note, a phone call originating from the Board’s office will say “Unknown” on the caller ID, not the office number itself.
      • If you receive a phone call that shows a “Board” phone number on your caller ID, ask for the person’s name and title. Defer substantive conversation until you have independently verified the person’s name and number. This information is on the Board website.
  • Do not provide personal or professional information (e.g., NPI, DEA number) in response to a suspicious communication.
  • Use official website and phone numbers to independently verify the authenticity of communications from persons claiming to be regulators.
  • Verify the identity of any person presenting on site and claiming to be a regulator by requesting to see their badge/ID.
    • The name on photograph of Board inspectors appear on the Board website and can be used to independently verify identity.
    • For other government agencies, use an official government agency phone number to call to confirm the identity of the individual on site.
  • Educate staff and key personnel regarding these best practices.

If you have any addition questions on how to avoid scams, please do not hesitate to contact your Quarles & Brady attorney or: