The Tennessee Bureau of Workers' Compensation reported yesterdaythat a Tennessee woman was almost defrauded by a scammer advising her to wire money in order to receive funds from a federal workers' compensation program. According to a release from the agency, the victim was contacted by “what appeared to be one of her Facebook friends,” who informed her about a program designed to help “retired, semi-retired, working class and low-income earners.”
But, according to the BWC statement, “in order to collect compensation, he told the woman she would have to pay upfront the taxes associated with the amount of money in order to receive payment from the government. The scam artist went so far as to give the woman a Rhode Island telephone number to text for more information about where to send money via Western Union.”
A series of online discussions are said to have ensued concerning this “opportunity.” Ultimately the woman ended up having a video call with the person, where she “determined it definitely was not the person who is her Facebook friend.” She contacted the BWC, which assured her that no such state or federal program exists.
There are two clear lessons here. First, no one on Facebook is really your friend. Second, and most importantly, ignorance surrounding workers' compensation is a true ally for the scammers of the world.
The 19 years I've spent managing WorkersCompensation.com have provided ample evidence of that ignorance. Generally, people outside our little sphere – general employers and their workers – have no idea what workers' compensation is, how it works or what our processes are. I've written here before about the crazy phone calls and emails we get on this topic (just this week we were subpoenaed for all claim records for an injured worker out of Pittsburgh; It was sent to “Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation,” care of our Sarasota, FL PO Box). We once got a call from a young woman who wanted to know how to get workers' compensation. She wasn't injured, but she needed money and since she was a “worker”, well, you know, she wanted additional compensation. We got an email one time from a woman who explained that she was pregnant and unable to work and wanted to know if she qualified for workers' compensation. It took every ounce of will for me not to respond with, “only if the pregnancy was the result of an accident that happened at work.” Those examples are just a tip of the ignorance iceberg.
For all I know, that was the same Tennessee woman who almost gave up cash for a promise of government riches that would never come.
This specific story has a happy ending, only because the scammer was brazen enough to initiate a video call. Had they omitted that step, they might have succeeded; and you can bet they've probably learned from their mistake and have adapted their approach.
Lack of awareness and an ignorance in the general population regarding our industry means that this type of fraud could be perpetrated anywhere. Both private and public entities within workers' compensation need to make a concerted effort to improve the education of John Q. Public. Not only would improved knowledge help the process should Mr. Public get injured, it could help prevent him from wasting his hard earned and legitimate compensation on a pie in the sky falsehood.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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