BOISE, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - A new scam is targeting licensed Idaho nurses.
Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and the Idaho Board of Nursing said the scam can target nurses either by phone or through the mail.
An Idaho nurse recently alerted the board after she received a phone call from a man who falsely identified himself as being from the Idaho Board of Nursing. Also on the call was another man who claimed to be with the FBI. The men told the nurse that her license was being suspended indefinitely pending an investigation into her activities. However, the men told her, she could keep her license active with a $17,500 surety bond, which she could reclaim at the conclusion of their investigation. The men then faxed the nurse a form to help generate the payment.
“As always, with any unsolicited phone call, with a scammer on the other end, arrest or something very important to you is somehow in danger,” Scott Graf, public information officer for the State of Idaho Office of the Attorney General said. “And that is meant to generate fear in the recipient of that call...When your livelihood is threatened, that hits pretty hard with people.”
The phone call appeared to come from 208-334-3110, a number formerly used in Idaho government. However, the men left an 804 area code number as their call back number. The 804 area code covers parts of central and eastern Virginia.
“It certainly is happening when there is heightened anxiety in the medical profession and that’s really, really unfortunate,” Graf said. “There is a former hospital administrator in the Treasure Valley, when he reacted to this news today, he called it ‘despicable’ and that’s exactly what it is. Even if there’s not a pandemic, to try and cheat people out of their hard earned money, in this way, it’s sad that there are people out there who try to earn their income in such a dishonest way.”
Idaho nurses are also being contacted by mail. In these instances, nurses receive fake but official looking documents. They appear to be sent by the state nursing board as well as the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The problem is that they look fairly official,” Graf said. “They’ve got signatures, they’ve got contact information, and they also most importantly have publicly available information which includes the nurse’s address and the nurse’s actual license number, which in Idaho, is a public record and publicly available.”
The phony state letter indicates the nurse is under investigation for allegedly trafficking illegal drugs, and that she will not be allowed to continue practicing past a certain date. Finally, the letter states that the nurse should contact the officer in charge of the investigation and lists an Idaho phone number. The letters were mailed to the nurse’s home address and both reference the nurse’s actual state license number.
It's not clear how many of Idaho's roughly 30,000 licensed nurses have been contacted by the scammers or if any have lost money as a result of the scam.
The Idaho Board of Nursing says they will not call nurses in a state of urgency if licenses need to be reinstated. They say usually there are missing verification forms or documents required to verify the nurse’s ability to practice. The Idaho Board of Nursing will send letters in the mail and the nurse will have to pay a reinstatement fee through an online application.
“One thing that we really suggest people do if they have any question about the validity of their licensure with the state board of nursing or any licensed professional in the state of Idaho, pick up the phone, reach out to that board of licensing and ask, ‘is my license ok?’” Graf said. “You’ll be able to get that information from the state directly so you know that this is in fact a scam and your license is intact.”
“While we’re talking about nurses right now, we also need to be cognizant of the fact that it may not always just be nurses. It may be expanded in the future to apply to other professions as well,” Graf said.
Nurses are advised to call the Idaho Nursing Board directly if there is any question about the status of their state license.