Several times a week–sometimes several times a day–my phone rings with someone calling me to inform me that I am eligible for compensation for harm I have suffered from a bad drug or surgically implanted device. According to these scammers, I am missing out on tons of money for injuries due to faulty bladder sling and transvaginal mesh implants, bad drug interactions from the diabetes drug Actos, and for harm done to my unborn child because I took anti-nausea medication during pregnancy. Like the television adverts for personal injury lawyers, they reassure me, “This is not the fault of your doctor”.
Except, I don’t have diabetes. I’ve never been pregnant. The only time I took Zofran was post-menopause. And if the pelvic mesh or bladder sling materials featured in any of the surgeries I’ve had as an adult–to remove impacted wisdom teeth, to repair a fractured patella and a fractured wrist–it indeed is the fault of my doctor for whatever harm I’ve suffered. As I’ve made a reasonable, if imperfect, recovery from those operations, my guess is that the doctors involved made better choices about how to repair me when I’ve broken myself.
Indeed, all the information they claim to have about me is incorrect. It is also, under HIPAA legislation, illegal for them to have any information about my medical conditions without my prior knowledge and consent.
These calls are, of course, illegal, and having your number–home or mobile–on the National Do Not Call Registry is absolutely useless in terms of stopping them. They come from an offshore bearpit type call center, routed through a US number. Telling them you know they’re illegal is worthless. Telling them you know you’re not eligible for the compensation they’re pushing does nothing–they just go down the list to the next thing (which is how I got the Zofran and Actos scams in the same phone call). The most you can do is to not give them any information they don’t already have, and prevent them from draining your account–which is what they will do as soon as they have the bank numbers they will ask for so they can deposit a sum of money for you.
So far as that goes, I’m good. But I like messing with them, so I’ve saved their phone numbers to my contacts under designations such as Bladder Sling Scammers. One friend suggested this would be a great name for a band.
Recently, one called me an @$$hole.(I’ve been called worse by scammers.) Just because I greet them politely and ask them how many people they’ve conned today? Hey, you call me several times a week presuming to know what’s going on in my genito-urinary tract, I have to think there’s a fairly personal relationship between us. And that requires at least the courtesy of my wanting to know how you’re getting on in your job. No need to get nasty.
I was making dinner on Saturday, and the phone went with a number I didn’t recognize, so I answered. The conversation went as follows:
Caller: We have information from the State of East Aurora Medical Center that you are eligible for compensation for injuries caused by anti-nausea medication you took while pregnant.
Me: There is no such institution as the State of East Aurora Medical Center, and I’ve never been pregnant.
Caller: They also gave us information that you’ve suffered injuries from the diabetes drug Xarelto.
Me: I’ve never taken any diabetes drug, because I do not have diabetes.
Caller: But you’re eligible for compensation.
Really. You have wrong information that even if it was correct, you can’t possibly legally have without my knowledge and permission, from an organization that does not exist.
However, someone must be falling for this and giving these people their bank details, or they wouldn’t keep calling.
When I posted the other day on Facebook about this most recent call, a friend brought up some parallels that I found fascinating between the scammers (obviously people with malicious intent who are succeeding at what they set out to do), and our shared experience of working with and for–and being members of–Christian churches (which we both find to be deeply flawed and frustrating, but basically benevolent institutions that are failing).
The problematic similarities that we found were that both the medical scammers and the churches work on the claim of having information about the individual that is somehow more than the individual (at least in my case) has about him/herself. There is an unchallengeable all-knowingness on the part of both scammers and church. They tell me, sometimes with little to know knowledge of me, what the state of my body and/or soul is; my challenge and /or correction is unheard and unheeded. It’s obvious that this is the métier of the bladder-sling folks; but I’ve had new-clergy acquaintances immediately jump to the conclusion that what I want from them is spiritual direction or counsel. (No. If I don’t specifically ask for it, I don’t want it.) What follows is that both the scammers and the churches offer a “solution” to a “problem” which might not exist–but that the target person is expected to embrace wholeheartedly and without question.
This is unethical behavior at best, on the part of both scammers and church.
The really interesting thing is that the scammers are offering (untruthfully) something that people actually want: a remedy for harm and injustice they’ve sustained, in a way that makes their lives in the here and now better. And the churches could offer–truthfully–that exact same thing, and even better. The Christian Churches could offer remedies for harm and injustice, on earth as in heaven.
I’ve said a lot about this as I’ve shared my little series on Walter Rauschenbusch, especially how the churches should be seeking justice for the less-fortunate. But everyone deserves justice, on earth–not just as a promise of something better in an afterlife that may or may not exist. In a brief dissertation on resentment, the 18th century Bishop of Durham Joseph Butler indicated that resentment is the justifiable anger a person feels when s/he is denied the justice s/he has worked to secure for others.
Perhaps the 21st century church needs to be a place where people not only work for justice for all, but can be assured that they themselves will be treated justly.