It’s a health scam at heart

PETALING JAYA: Retiree K. Niyani got a phone call supposedly from a clinic, offering her a free medical screening for her heart condition.

“They knew I am a heart patient and the details were correct. I’ve never signed up for anything with them, so it’s strange they knew my medical condition,” she said.

“The clinic insisted that I go for a screening although I told them I go for regular check-ups at a hospital.”

Niyani, 67, said the phone call came from a landline number.

The caller, she said, mentioned the name of the clinic.

Upon searching the Internet for the name, Niyani, from Penang, found that there was no such clinic.

Instead, the search results showed a “wellness centre” with the same name that offered spa services.

The call was likely a ruse to lure people into spending money on purported health packages they don’t need.

In such cases, the victims are told that the health screening is by invitation only.

One of the most common requirements is that the person must have a credit card.

They are sometimes required to share their credit card number and other financial and personal details, including MyKad numbers, during the call.

“Most important is that you must have a credit card. Remember, this is by invitation only and we are offering to people aged between 30 and 65,” said one such caller.

According to the caller, the offer was being made in conjunction with World Heart Day (which is marked annually on Sept 29.)

A check by The Star on some of the names of the organisations and clinics supposedly offering these services revealed that some of them did not exist.

Some of these callers even had information on the person’s health status, especially those with heart conditions.

Content writer Fila Rizal, 42, said she received such calls from a mobile phone number, offering a free heart screening at a clinic.

“This happened several times despite me declining the offer. I have never heard of such a clinic,” she said.

Another person – who wants to remain anonymous – took up the offer and went to a screening.

He said the consultation comprised checking the vein on a finger.

“The doctor then asked me to get a package which was quite costly. I didn’t quite understand the package but it had some supplements in it as well. I put my foot down, saying that I did not want any of it. And I left,” he said.

Another anonymous participant said the package offered to him cost more than RM10,000.

“I did not understand what the package was all about, but the price tag shocked me. In fact, there were a lot of confusing details. Maybe they hope you would just buy into it,” he said.

Public health advocate Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said there is a possibility that scammers might have been given access to some health records by “irresponsible agents”.

Or the schemers might just be banking on general information on the Malaysian population’s health and disease statistics, he said.

“People must exercise common sense. If they have medical problems, go to a clinic or hospital.

“Do not engage in online consultations or other medical dealings,” said the former Health Ministry official.

“The ethics of screening of medical conditions must be done with proper consultation and follow-up.”

Unfortunately, such calls offering these supposedly free wellness screening packages are not new.

In July 2020, the National Heart Institute (IJN) issued an alert on its Facebook page cautioning the public against scam calls offering these so-called packages.

“We have been receiving calls from the public and our partners saying that they received a call from IJN offering free wellness screening packages and asking them to provide payslip, identification card and other personal documents to enrol for this screening,” it said.

“Please be aware that IJN does not engage with any third party to conduct any wellness screening promotion. We urge you not to provide your personal information and be mindful of the situation.”

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