We often get phone calls from the general public about hospitals in Europe. These calls vary from the slightly trivial to the seriously urgent. One call definitely fell into the last category.
The voice was American, curt and stressed. He wanted to know the telephone number for the Greenwich Hospital near London. I logged into www.HospitalRegisters.com as a subscriber and checked the name. Nothing came up. Either we had missed a major London hospital or something was seriously wrong with the database. I took his number and promised to call back.
Five minutes of research showed me the Greenwich Hospital had existed but was demolished 4 years ago. I called back and gave the news which was greeted with surprise. He then asked if there were any Accident and Emergency departments near Greenwich. Using the map facility on our site, I was able to identify three fairly quickly. I called back with hospital names and telephone numbers but I also asked why the information was needed
The caller had received an e-mail from a doctor at the (demolished) Greenwich hospital telling him that his close friend had been involved in an accident and he needed $4,500 for treatment. The e-mail gave full details of his friend and seemed very plausible.
I explained that treatment was free in all UK public hospitals and that no British doctor would ever contact you asking for money. He had been subjected to a very plausible, well constructed scam. It is one thing to spot the Nigerian oil minister’s widow anxious to give you $20 million. It is a lot harder to ignore a personal plea from a close friend in a medical emergency who only needs a few thousand dollars.
This is how it’s done. The scammers search through Facebook and other social sites looking for the magic words such as ‘I will be travelling in Europe for the next month and may not be contactable’. Now they find all this person’s friends from the same source. Using the biographical information from the social site to they construct a heart-wrenching e-mail and wait for the cash.
Another way of finding out who is a good scam subject is to send bulk e-mails to business and educational addresses. Those automated replies giving travel plans and holiday dates are wonderfully revealing.
We have only been able to spot and stop one of these scams. There must be thousands more. If you receive an e-mail involving a European hospital, please contact us. We are happy to help.
Do not let your friends fall victim to these scams. Pass this post to them.