5 Tips to Help Protect You
Mrs. Hill was an 85 year- old who lived with her daughter and son in law. One morning, there was a knock at her door, and Mrs. Hill opened the door to a young lady wearing a uniform like a healthcare worker. The young lady introduced herself as Tracy, and she said she was from Mrs. Hill’s home healthcare agency. She wore the same maroon color uniform as the other home healthcare agency workers. She had a name tag that said “Tracy.” Tracy was in a hurry, she said. She just wanted to check Mrs. Hill’s medications so she could fill out some paperwork for the home healthcare company. She was a friendly, pleasant-looking young woman who seemed to know what she was doing, and looked “official.”
So, Mrs. Hill let her in, and showed Tracy her medications which she stored on a shelf in the kitchen. Tracy chatted with Mrs. Hill and accepted a cup of coffee as she wrote down some notes on a page on a clipboard. Mrs. Hill excused herself to go to the restroom, and when she returned, Tracy cheerily said she was finished, and wished her a good day. Mrs. Hill walked her to the door and Tracy hurriedly drove away.
Later, Mrs. Hill went to take her lunch-time pills and found that the bottle was not where she had always placed it. When she looked in the cabinet, she saw that all of her medicine bottles were gone. What could have happened? Had Tracy moved them to another shelf? Had she misplaced them herself? She looked several places in the house, the bathroom, the bedroom, but she couldn’t find any of them.
She thought she would call the home healthcare agency and see if Tracy could tell her where she had put the medicines. So, she called the agency and talked to Mrs. Taylor, the manager. Mrs. Taylor told her that there was no worker at the agency named Tracy. No worker was scheduled to come to Mrs. Hill’s house that day. It was agency policy to always call the patient first before coming. And no one from the agency had called Mrs. Hill about a visit that day. The agency manager informed Mrs. Hill that she had apparently been robbed of her prescription medications by someone who had posed as a home healthcare worker for the agency. “Tracy” was a faker who had stolen her prescription medications! Who would have thought she needed home health theft protection.
It was all a scam! The agency manager immediately reported the incident to the police. The agency manager went to Mrs. Hill’s home and discussed the incident with her and the police officer who took the report. The police officer told them this had happened before in the city, and they were looking at known criminals who were stealing prescription drugs from elderly and disabled people so they could re-sell them illegally. After a few months, the police were able to find the woman who had stolen the medications and put her in jail.
This scenario has happened in various places throughout the country. It is carried out by bold thieves and liars, who with a little information, observation and snooping, are able to figure out that an elderly person is visited by a home healthcare agency, and probably takes prescription medications that could be valuable to re-sell illegally. Narcotics and painkillers, in particular, are what they are seeking. The criminals believe they can prey on cooperative patients who will hand the medicine bottles over and not ask many questions if they believe they are assisting a healthcare professional from an agency.
What can you do to promote home health theft protection in your home?
- Have some rules about answering the door to strangers, especially if the caregiver is away. Seeing a camera at the front door might have scared off this scammer.
- Remember that real home healthcare agency employees will call before visiting, and will set up a schedule for their care visits. They won’t just drop in unpredictably. Time after time, you will probably see the same employees too, or the agency will inform you about any people who are substituting that visit. . Ask for identification if you have any doubts.
- If there is any question about who is at your door, then call the agency, and ask them who has been sent that day, their name, and their purpose for being there. Don’t open the door unless you believe that person is really an employee of the agency sent there by the agency.
- Safeguard your medications and valuables. Lock up your checkbook, credit cards, jewelry and other valuables. Don’t leave your medications in easily visible places, and don’t discuss your medications with people who have no business knowing about them.
- Don’t hesitate to report this kind of crime to the police immediately. That way, the scammers will be caught, and others won’t be victimized.
Protect your prescriptions, your home, and your loved one from thieves at the door.