Stories like this always break our heart, but they are important to get out to the public. In our field, just like all others, there are unscrupulous characters focused more on cash payouts than actually making a difference. Sometimes it’s a unethical treatment facility, but other times (and more commonly now) it’s self-proclaimed “middle men” who promise to aid in recovery, but end up taking advantage of those in need. The term that has been used to describe them is Addiction Vultures and it’s gotten the attention of many major news outlets.
Newsday.com recently printed an expose on the “vulture” industry and the methods these criminals are using to pull their schemes. Also dubbed “Junkie Hunters” or “Body Brokers,” they prey on people battling dependencies and their despondent family members. The scam works as an empty promise, with the vultures trying to come to the aid of addicts in need. They’ll vow to connect them with an affordable, effective treatment center (usually out of state), then get kickbacks from the facilities. The problem is, these facilities are almost always crooked and use the patients to collect big insurance payouts. Then vultures then get a payday and the people suffering get drained bank accounts.
The epidemic has gotten so bad (particularly because of the opioid crisis), that New York governor Andrew Cuomo has created a public awareness campaign to crack down on these fraudulent practices.
“Vulnerable New Yorkers struggling with addiction are being targeted and falsely promised life-saving treatment services and then are given inadequate and ineffective treatment at outrageous costs,” Governor Cuomo said at a recent press conference. “With this campaign, we make it clear that this reprehensible practice will not be tolerated in New York and will help ensure that people receive the appropriate assistance they need to reclaim their lives.”
Interestingly enough, Newsday is reporting that many of the vultures are recovering addicts themselves. Their scams can include everything from overpriced intervention assistance, to bogus counseling sessions that never happen. One big indicator of this, is a supposed “treatment representative” asking for big advance cash payouts. We highly recommend doing background research on anyone who offers this. DO NOT HAND OUT MONEY without seeing their proper credentials.
Even if you’re savvy enough to spot a vulture, we highly encourage you to spread the word about these awful practices. New York’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services has provided a wealth of resources on their website, which can be shared to educate the public. Let’s all make a difference to #StopTreatmentFraud.