Deceptive marketers who divert phone calls made to drug-treatment facilities in the Northeast to programs in Florida are likely violating civil and criminal laws, Professor Richard Frankel said in a June 23 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The article explores a vulnerability that exists in Google that allows marketers to edit contact information for treatment facilities in Philadelphia and elsewhere, thereby hijacking the own phone number. Once that information is hijacked, the article explains, individuals who locate a facility online think they are calling a nearby treatment center but unwittingly wind up reaching facilities in Florida.
“The prize is a piece of the estimated $45 billion drug-treatment industry fed by an exploding heroin epidemic,” the article said. “Treatment centers pay marketers as much as $1,000 a referral, according to Florida law enforcement.”
Those who travel to Florida for treatment likely won’t get reimbursed for their out-of-pocket costs, the article said.
Perpetrators of phone hijacking may be violating both civil and criminal laws related to fraud, deception and theft of service, Frankel told the Inquirer.
The article notes that the Florida State Attorney’s Office has assigned a task force to examine the scheme, which targets treatment centers in Philadelphia and elsewhere in the Northeast.
Frankel, the director of the Appellate Litigation Clinic, is an expert on consumer protection.