Phone scammers use CHI computer woes as bait

By | February 5, 2024

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – CHI Health’s computer system remains shut down, the result of a nationwide ransomware attack on its parent company that has affected countless patients and healthcare workers.

Now some scammers are using the news as an opportunity to prey on consumers.

It seems phone scammers are always looking for new ways to get you to pick up, and Collin Warren answered.

“I had medication that I needed to pick up, so why not pick up that phone,” he said. “But you always in the back of your head think, should I?”

The caller claimed to be in collections for CHI Health.

Collin became suspicious when she didn’t seem to know where she was calling, so he began recording the call.

“She goes ‘O-m-h…’, You’re leaving a few letters out, sweetheart,” Collin said. “The last resort of the whole [scam attempt] was when she told me that I owed money from a place that I had zeroed out my account.”

Scammers are using CHI Health’s well-publicized computer outage as a hook and the hospital tells us, don’t bite. They sent us a statement making it clear they have bigger concerns than calling on collections.

In certain circumstances, CHI Health may contact a patient by phone to confirm information about their care plan, such as insurance or scheduling information. We may ask for personal and financial information prior to a procedure in order to complete the registration process or when helping patients apply for financial assistance.

At this time, due to a ransomware attack, we are not reaching out to patients to resolve medical bills or ask for personal financial information.

Third-party collection agencies are not contacting patients on behalf of CHI Health at this time.

If a patient receives a call that they are concerned about, we ask that they hang up and contact their physician’s office.

Bellevue Police Department community relations coordinator Roger Cox concurs.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying I’m gonna hang up and I’m going to call your billing office myself,” Cox said. “That’s exactly what I do every time, I might say, ‘thank you so much for your call I’m just gonna hang up now and I’m gonna call the 800 number that I have for you back, and then we can discuss this when I make the return phone call.’”

Cox said even if you don’t fall for the scam, law enforcement still encourages you to let them know by calling your local police department’s non-emergency number.

“Sometimes you call us and it is something we’ve never heard of before,” Cox said. “We try our best to put out [on social media] what we hear, what the latest scams are, to warn people just to say, be careful.”

Most of these schemes don’t originate locally, Cox said, even though the Caller ID may read like a local number.

The Federal Trade Commission also encourages people to report phone fraud, to keep their database as complete as possible. The FTC also has a program, Consumer Sentinel Network, that compiles data and offers collaborative resources with local law enforcement. But Cox said fraudulent crime is tough to beat.

“I mean the FTC, the federal government has an entire task force created trying to track these people down and put a stop to it, and even with all of the resources that they have they’re still having a horrible time,” Cox said. “It just seems to be getting worse and worse and worse, for every [scam call] you used to get, now you’re getting 10.”

Collin went on Facebook and told the social media world what had happened, and shared the phone call with us. He wanted to make sure people take it seriously, and don’t become victims of scammers fishing, or perhaps it should be called phishing, during a medical crisis.

“The people in Omaha or the Metro that use CHI, be careful, because [the phone scammers] know now that they can try this, and it happened, I got it, today.”

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