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: http://www.lanavoluptuous.com/ 

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.

A Question of Trust: A Story That Leads Back Home

The old guy was an easy mark. He’d had a stroke a few years before, made a good recovery with no evident physical effects, but certainly wasn’t the bright young man of his youth. And he wasn’t just any old guy. He was my dad.

“Rain or Shine” Milt Stein, an appellation that referred to his reliability and work ethic, was 83, but still active. Early every morning he took a walk of perhaps a mile in the area near the condo he shared with my mother, who was seven years his junior.

It was the very steamy summer of 1995, the hottest in Chicago’s history, topping out at 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius). On the day in question the temperature was already in the 90s, although not yet 7 AM. A relatively young couple with a small boy approached him.

“Our car broke down, sir. Do you have any water — water to drink?” It was a Sunday and stores would not open for three hours or so.

Milt Stein was a gentle and decent man. Perhaps he noted that the family wasn’t especially well-dressed — that their clothing was damp with perspiration. Approximately 750 deaths by heat and dehydration had been reported in the news recently. The condo was only a couple of blocks away. He led the family there.

My mom was shocked when dad unlocked the door and the family entered. Much less trusting than my father, Jeanette Stein never would have permitted this if she had been given a choice. Beauty, charm, and a quick wit were my mother’s strong suits. Faith in humanity wasn’t high on the list. She often said that “no good deed goes unpunished.” Mom knew this wasn’t exactly politically correct and wondered what others might think of her lack of trust. She sometimes made a joke of it by saying (always with a twinkle in her eye), “People say I’m kind, but what I want to know is, what kind?”

No time for such comments now. Strangers were inside her home. As she viewed it, the “aliens” had breached the gate. But what could she do? Dad was already on the way to the kitchen to get some glasses and fill them full of water. Meanwhile, the man and woman began to talk excitedly to my mother.

The boy disappeared.

It all happened quickly. Within just a few minutes everyone had been hydrated and the trio departed. But when my parents went into their bedroom, they noticed that a closet door was open and a cardboard box on a shelf there was ajar. The box was empty of the $10,000 in jewelry it had contained only a few minutes before. The little boy had done his crafty worst. He had taken the treasure.

The police were engaged quickly. A report was filed and the officer told my parents that there had been similar episodes in their neighborhood recently. None of this made my dad feel any better. He felt the fool and, unfortunately, my mother’s criticism of his trusting nature didn’t encourage a quick emotional rebound from the event.

Surprisingly, the police actually were able to recover more than half of the jewelry within a few weeks. But Mrs. Stein’s approval wasn’t so quickly retrieved by Mr. Stein. Mother would tell people the story and father would have to admit that, yes indeed, his kindness had not been repaid in kind.

So what we have here is a difference of temperament or personality on questions of trust and compassion — two models of how to live. You probably have a few family stories yourself, the kind that illustrate similar things, get repeated, and eventually become amusing, even if they didn’t begin that way.

As time passed, my always-clever mother found a humorous way to tell this tale. First she would explain the details of the “con.” Next mom would comment about my father’s naivety and mention the recovery of some of the jewelry almost as an afterthought. But you just knew she couldn’t end it there and the twinkle in her eye gave away that she was getting ready for the knock-out punch. Mrs. Stein pointed her index finger at the man to whom she had been married for nearly 45 years, took a deep breath, wound up and delivered:

“People keep telling me that I should change the locks on the condo. But the problem is, he’s got a key!”

The image above is my mother as a young woman. This is a revised version of a story I wrote some time ago.

To Trust or Not to Trust: A Con Artist Story That Leads Back Home


The old guy was an easy mark. He’d had a stroke a few years before, made a good recovery with no evident physical effects, but certainly wasn’t the bright young man of his youth. And he wasn’t just any old guy. He was my dad.

“Rain or Shine” Milt Stein, an appellation that referred to his reliability and work ethic, was 83, but still active. Early every morning he took a walk of perhaps a mile in the area near the condo he shared with my mother, who was seven years his junior.

It was the very steamy summer of 1995, the hottest in Chicago’s history, topping out at 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius). On the day in question the temperature was already in the 90s, although not yet 7 AM. A relatively young couple with a small boy approached him.

“Our car broke down, sir. Do you have any water — water to drink?” It was a Sunday and stores would not open for three hours or so.

Milt Stein was a gentle and decent man. Perhaps he noted that the family wasn’t especially well-dressed — that their clothing was damp with perspiration. Approximately 750 deaths by heat and dehydration had been reported in the news recently. The condo was only a couple of blocks away. He led the family there.

My mom was shocked when dad unlocked the door and the family entered. Much less trusting than my father, Jeanette Stein never would have permitted this if she had been given a choice. Beauty, charm, and a quick wit were my mother’s strong suits. Faith in humanity wasn’t high on the list. She often said that “no good deed goes unpunished.” Mom knew this wasn’t exactly politically correct and wondered what others might think of her lack of trust. She sometimes made her suspicions known by saying (always with a twinkle in her eye), “People say I’m kind, but what I want to know is, what kind?”

As she would have viewed it, the “aliens” were now inside the gate. But what could she do? Dad was already on the way to the kitchen to get some glasses and fill them full of water. Meanwhile, the man and woman began to talk excitedly to my mother.

The boy disappeared.

It all happened quickly. Within just a few minutes everyone had been hydrated and the trio departed. But when my parents went into their bedroom, they noticed that a closet door was open and a card board box on a shelf there was ajar. The box was empty of the $10,000 in jewelry it had contained only a few minutes before. The little boy had done his crafty worst. He had taken the treasure.

The police were engaged quickly. A report was filed and the officer told my parents that there had been similar episodes in their neighborhood recently. None of this made my dad feel any better. He felt the fool and, unfortunately, my mother’s criticism of his trusting nature didn’t encourage a quick emotional rebound from the event.

Surprisingly, the police actually were able to recover more than half of the jewelry within a few weeks. But Mrs. Stein’s approval wasn’t so quickly retrieved by Mr. Stein. Mother would tell people the story and father would have to admit that, yes indeed, his kindness had not been repaid in kind.

So what we have here is a difference of temperament or personality on questions of trust and compassion — two models of how to live. You probably have a few family stories yourself, the kind that illustrate similar things, get repeated, and eventually become amusing, even if they didn’t begin that way.

As time passed, my always-clever mother found a humorous way to tell this tale. First she would explain the details of the “con.” Next mom would comment about my father’s naivety and mention the recovery of some of the jewelry almost as an afterthought. But you just knew she couldn’t end it there and the twinkle in her eye gave away that she was getting ready for the knock-out punch. Mrs. Stein pointed her index finger at the man to whom she had been married for nearly 45 years, took a deep breath, wound up and delivered:

People keep telling me that I should change the locks on the condo. But the problem is, he’s got a key!

The image above is my mother as a young woman.