Phishing For a Therapist

In the age of electronic scams, no one is safe, not even a therapist. I have now received three or four very similar queries from potential new patients that fit the same model. And I do mean model, since all of the phishing expeditions involve someone searching for a therapist to treat a swim suit model with anxiety problems.

As you may know, “Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication” according to Wikipedia.

The email messages always follow a pattern similar to this:

Greetings from Transylvania!

My name is Dr. Sucker Fisher. I have been a plastic surgeon since 1993. I do face lifts and breast lifts. I have been looking for a therapist for anxiety for over a week now till I met an old friend yesterday that referred you to me, so I decided to contact you to know if you will be able to work on my client.

My client’s name is Ms. Lana Voluptuous, a swim suit model here in Transylvania who is struggling with anxiety. She will be coming to the U.S in three weeks time for a modeling job and will be residing in your area temporarily until the necessary arrangement for her job has been made before she leaves. She will be needing a one hour anxiety therapy session per day, three sessions per week for six weeks. Ms. Voluptuous asked me to come with her to the States, but I told her that my schedule wouldn’t permit this and also because I do not know much about anxiety therapy sessions, so I promised to help her get a good therapist in your area.

Please tell me a little more about yourself,  how long have you been treating anxiety? And would you be able to provide her with the anxiety therapy sessions requested? I need you to get back to me with the amount you charge per session and also let me know if she can pay you with a certified check drawn from a US bank.

You can view some of Ms. Voluptuous’s pictures from the following link: 

Thank you,

Dr. S. Fisher

Your Future Patients?

OK, now ask yourself what is happening here and what will happen if you, the therapist, engage in a correspondence with the phisher, Dr. Fisher?

There are several things within the email that suggest that the search for a therapist is not genuine:

1. Isn’t it a little suspicious that (unless you are an internationally famous therapist) someone in Transylvania recommended your services?

2. Why isn’t the patient making the request herself instead of through an intermediary?

3. If the alleged model decided to engage someone to do this search for a therapist, why wouldn’t it be her current therapist? Why would it be someone who professes to know very little about the treatment of anxiety? Given that she wants a very precise number of sessions per week, Ms. Voluptuous (if she is real) is clearly knowledgeable about treatment and is currently in therapy.

4. Why wouldn’t the model wish her present counselor to provide the new counselor precise and detailed information about her background and her needs rather than the very generalized description of her condition (“anxiety”)?

5. Why would any legitimate request for a therapist include a link to photos of the model?

6. Why would the above email include a request for more information about your background and ability to treat anxiety? First, the writer has indicated that he knows little about such treatment, suggesting that he would be unable to evaluate anything you might provide. Moreover, you might (like me) have both a website and a blog site that include information on your background. If he were serious about searching for a qualified therapist, he almost certainly would already have consulted those sites (and in my case, noticed that I am retired).

In the actual emails of this sort, the links to the photos are real. I imagine that the models in question would be surprised to find that someone is using their names and their photos to swindle unsuspecting therapists. The models are always quite beautiful. I imagine that the phisher is assuming that the enticement of working with a sexy young woman will lure some therapists to pursue the email exchange further. Such a therapist might rationalize that since there is the promise of being paid by a certified check there would be no risk of financial loss.

Not so fast. Once the email exchange progresses sufficiently, the “model” typically discovers that her next assignment (after her therapy sessions with you, but before you actually have seen her) will be in another country. You are also told that she is having trouble dealing with the company that is engaging her there and asks you to serve as an intermediary involving a financial transaction. Again, you will be reimbursed by a cashier’s check (which will doubtless be counterfeit).

Do many therapists fall for this? I can’t say for sure, but if they do, here is why:

1. They are being offered the opportunity to obtain a new client who will presumably be paying a hefty fee.

2. The client is very attractive.

3. They are flattered to think that their skill is so great that they are being sought by a minor celebrity from another country.

As P.T. Barnum is alleged to have said, “There is a sucker born every minute.”

In this instance, need I add that we are talking about men?

The top image is called Fishing by Carl Larsson. The photo below it is from the Miss Kandy Kontest, September 13, 2008. It was taken by Toglenn. Both images are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.