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4 Business Scams You Need to Avoid (2 May Be Legal!)

Your doctor could be an 18-year-old imposter. At least this was the case for some Floridians, as police arrested teen for practicing medicine without a medical license; this was the second time. All it took was a credible-looking website, impressive-sounding business name, “Dr.” in front of the fraudster’s name, and an “entrepreneurial spirit.” While scams like this aren’t the norm, they certainly aren’t the exception, as over 5,000 fake doctors have “practiced” in the US since 1986, proving that literally anyone (fraudsters included) can go from rags to riches in the land of milk and honey. And it’s not just fake doctors that reap big financial benefits. It’s the companies that help them and other professionals land a corporate job by supplying them with a fake degree from a prestigious or fake university. Read on to learn how they get away with this as well as other scams you’re likely to encounter. (Two of them may even be legal.)

Scam #1: Phone Scam That Starts With a “Yes”

All you need to do is say “yes” for this scam to work. Here’s how scammers get you. You get a call on your phone. You pick up and hear this line, “Can you hear me?” You say the y-word, in which case the scammer has recorded your answer and will use it as a voice signature to charge your credit card account. The scam is called “cramming.” It targets millions of Americans, with the average household having potentially received 230 of them in 2016. (There were 29 billion cramming calls last year.)

How You Can Avoid This

Hang up if you get this kind of call. If you do say yes, check your bank and credit card statements to see if there’s been any unusual activity. If there is, report it to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as well as your credit card company.

Scam #2: Doctor’s Business Name All That’s Legit

Medical quackery was at its peak in the late 1800s to early 1900s. It wasn’t until 1938, 32 years after its formation, that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) cracked down on medical devices. However, it may take a fatal accident to spot a quack, as was the case with this phony anesthesiologist and primary care physician. Similar to the actors in commercials, these phonies only need to wear a white lab coat and have a smooth bedside manner for you to believe them. Sadly, some can play the part for years—one man impersonated a doctor for over a decade.

How You Can Avoid This

Look up your doctor’s medical license in the state’s medical examiners board website. (The same goes for lawyers and therapists with the state bar and state board of behavior science websites.) Also, check with the Better Business Bureau and conduct a business name search to see if he/she has gone through the appropriate business channels. While many doctors frame and hang their degrees in the patient waiting room, this still may not be enough to prove they’re legitimate. We’ll show you why…

Scam #3: Fake Diplomas Are a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

Dogs and 5-year-olds can now “earn” a degree from prestigious universities such as Harvard and Princeton. All you need to do is type in “fake degree,” click on one of the sites that sell them—there are several diploma mill sites—and fill in the information for Fluffy. But the fun turns serious when estimates project more than 100,000 fake degrees are sold per year in the US. Some purchased by people who go on to be forensic psychologists, fire chiefs, and yes, doctors. One man purchased a nuclear engineering degree; he later was hired to work in a nuclear power plant. According to a an article, 40,000 Ph.Ds. are awarded annually in the US, while 50,000 are purchased. With so many Americans purchasing them and the average fake diploma costing approximately $200, we’re looking at a booming multi-billion-dollar industry. Unfortunately, it’s hard for feds to crack down on these mills since they’re set up in such a way that makes it hard to know who the original founders are. Plus, many of the degrees look so real you wouldn’t even suspect the person carrying it didn’t sit one day in Algebra 101. It gets more complicated when owning a fake degree technically is legal; it only becomes illegal when the owner tries to use it.

How You Can Avoid This

Many governments have sites that list accredited colleges. In the US, you’d want to check on US Department of Education website. Use one of these government-run sites to see if the university the degree is from is on the list.

Scam #4: This Business Provides Fake References

CareerExcuse owns 200 companies…that don’t exist, as this article reports. CareerExcuse provides fake references, resumes, and credentials for people who’re looking for a job. The article further claims that for $100-$200, you can purchase the basic plan, which will get you 1-3 (fake) positive references. The premium plan, of course, offers more “official-sounding” references. And it doesn’t stop there. There’ll be a (fake) website, address, and telephone number with each reference. If a prospective employer does call the reference number, a nice-sounding person on the other line will say many complimentary things about your character, business reputation and credibility…all of which are untrue given that they’ve never met or worked with you. CareerExcuse isn’t the only business in the fake reference industry. The Reference Store, another fake reference company, even provides fake landlord references. 800 (and counting) have gotten jobs because of this (scam?) service— It becomes conflicting when we think of the qualified people who are overlooked for a job because of a large career gap. However, there have been people who use fake references for jobs they aren’t qualified for and may never be in if not for the service. While its ethics are questionable, the legal grounds, like the fake reference industry, is sketchy.

How You Can Avoid This

If you’re following up with a prospective employee’s reference, physically drive to the location. Or use Google Earth. It would be too expensive for these companies to purchase a location for every one of their non-existent business.

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