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Issue: 64 - Apr 15, 2014
Don’t Fall for These Common Scams
By: Dr. Phil Zeltzman
Dr. Phil Zeltzman1

Have you heard the story of our colleague who got scammed by a microscope maintenance company?

She writes: “They called to set up a time for our annual microscope cleaning. The guy did his thing, then asked to be paid. The office manager paid him. On the next day, I used the microscope, not knowing that anyone was here to clean it. I thought I was going crazy! It was all blurry, and the heads were put on backwards. I had to have the real microscope guy come in to fix it.”

Another colleague got scammed into having a wind mill installed on his property. 

"It qualified for the federal tax rebate, so I thought it was legitimate. They claimed it would generate an average of $50 of electricity each month in our windy area. So it was supposed to pay for itself in up to 12 years."  Turns out, the wind mill only generates about $5/month… so it will pay for itself in up to 120 years… if it even keeps spinning that long.

You may also remember, years ago, the scam involving digital displays in waiting rooms. And there are also scams related to the Yellow Pages.

A more recent type of scam seems to feed off the fear of OSHA. Often, a fake inspector will show up at your clinic. Don’t fall for it. Discreetly call OSHA to confirm who the inspector is, and certainly never give them any money.

Twice in my surgery career, a company called me to offer to put me on public television. Hey, being interviewed on PBS sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? Turns out that public television and PBS are not the same. There are other public TV stations besides PBS.  The idea is to shoot short videos of yourself in action (in your clinic) which will appear between shows or movies. It's actually called "interstitial programming," explained my new-found producer.

After stroking your ego for a (long) while, and explaining how this wonderful moment of fame will help you grow your business, the nice lady on the phone lets you in on a little secret: all this publicity will happen for a fee. And a hefty one!  Indeed, based on my most recent encounter, it costs $3,500 to send a whole TV crew to your clinic. 

"A similar segment typically runs about $300,000. But since I’m such a nice guy and all, my cost would only be $16,900, for a grand total of slightly over $20,000."  So it’s a deal, right?

Fortunately, I remembered my previous experience and asked from the get-go if I’d have to pay for anything. That instantly confirmed my suspicion and saved me a bunch of time listening to a mouth-watering spiel. I can’t remember the name of the first company I dealt with. The most recent one was called American Milestones (which mysteriously doesn’t seem to exist at press time).

I'm not the only thinking this is sounds like a scam. Jeff Cronin, director of communications for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C., shared his experience with a similar company and compared the pitch he heard to “a boiler-room telemarketing fraud*.”

I recently read a blog entitled: “Stop Stroking Your Ego, Start Growing Your Bottom Line,” by Melissa Galt. The professional speaker and social media expert at Prosper by Design (www.melissagalt.com), wrote a candid blog about her misfortune with an award company called U.S. Commerce Association (which also mysteriously doesn’t seem to exist at press time). She was informed that she had won an award in recognition for being an outstanding life coach. Interestingly, she’s not a life coach. Oops.

Ms. Galt writes: “For a fee, I could have my very own irrelevant award. (…) You no longer have to win recognition, instead you can buy your own trophies!”

She continues: “I’m familiar with the services that call you up after you’ve gotten some nice press and they offer to put it onto a plaque for you, for the Very Special Price of ONLY $197.”

This reminded me that I actually received a similar offer for framing the very nice introduction article Veterinary Practice News had published when I started writing my monthly surgery column. I didn’t think it was a scam. Rather, sadly for the company, I just didn’t have the ego or the desire to own a framed, $197 article. The fact than Melissa Galt calls it a scam makes me wonder…

She then moves on to another topic which will be familiar to many readers:

“This latest scam is closer to the Who’s Who books that they market. I am embarrassed to admit I fell for one of those some ten years ago. They like to impress you with all their fancy numbers and tell you how you can use it to network and usually the charge is anywhere from $500 to $1,500.”

And here’s yet another scam, described by Melissa Galt: “A local association I belonged to honored me with an award. I admit, it seemed out of the blue and I graciously accepted. Shortly thereafter, the head of the association approached me about doing PR for me. This was clever. I felt somewhat beholden for the award and did hire her. (…) It took me only three months to realize this was a marketing ploy she used and I’d been had. She wasn’t any good at PR.”

I will let Ms. Galt conclude, as it is so well written:

“Recognition only builds your credibility when it is real and bona fide and not some ego-driven form of personal branding gone awry. Particularly in today’s age of social networking and relationship marketing, there is no need for this form of expensive and ineffective brand boost. Invest your dollars more wisely in forming real connections that count and contributing genuine value to your market as well as your peers.”

Clearly, this also applies to pet owning clients.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is www.DrPhilZeltzman.com. He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound”

* Quoted from http://www.current.org/cm/cm0403cronkite.shtml.