Scams: What a Tangled Web They Weave

By Jeanine Lehman, Attorney at Law

Dentists and their staff need to be wary of scams.  Here are a few to have on your radar.


Toner Scam.  In the toner scam, your office receives a phone call from a “copy repair” company requesting the model and make of your copier.  The caller sounds very official, but is not from your copy repair company. If the staff member provides the model and make, shortly thereafter, unordered toner of questionable quality is delivered.  The office also receives an invoice for the unordered toner, often at an exorbitant price. Sometimes, the invoice is paid and the scammer gets your money. This scam has been widespread across the country for many years.

Fax Machine Repair Scam.  This scam was widespread in San Antonio, some years ago.  A uniformed technician shows up at the office to repair the fax machine.  He is shown to the fax machine. Shortly thereafter, he exits the back door with the fax machine, which is never seen again.

Directory Listing Scam.  In the directory listing scam, the office receives one or more calls to establish the identity and authority of someone in the office and to elicit the word “Yes” or similar indication of approval, which is surreptitiously recorded.  For example, the caller may ask for the office manager, acquire the office manager’s name, and ask the office manager if the office is open on Tuesdays or takes a certain credit card. Sometime later, the office receives an invoice for an advertisement in a directory, which was never ordered.  This invoice may be faxed to avoid the enforcement reach of the U.S. Postal Service for mail fraud. The invoice is sometimes paid, and the scammer gets your money.

In this scam, the scammer uses technology to produce a false recording, in which the “Yes” or similar indication of approval is spliced after a question, such as “do you order an ad for the next directory for $1,500?”  That fraudulent recording is played for the office to try to coerce payment and can cause much distress to the innocent staff member or dentist, who was recorded. And yes, it is impossible to never say “Yes” on the phone, and still be customer friendly.  At least one variant of this scam (billing for unordered items) was based in Canada and preyed on businesses in the United States.

Prevention.  It is important to train staff and dentists about possible scams, so that the dental practice is not a victim. Also, a sign on the copier to not give out model and make to callers is helpful.  

Reporting.  If your office is a victim of a scam, reports should be filed with law enforcement, including but not limited to, the police; your county or district attorney; the Texas Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division; if the Internet is involved, with the Internet Crime Complaint Center of the FBI; and if the mail is used, with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.  If health information was involved, there may be a breach that will need to be reported to patients and to the federal and state government under HIPAA and state medical privacy laws. If your office is a victim of a scam, it is prudent to consult with your attorney promptly.



Jeanine Lehman is an Austin, Texas dental, health and business law attorney with a statewide practice – She can be reached at (512) 918-3435 or © Jeanine Lehman 2018.