Substance abuse is a widespread issue in the United States and virtually every community has experienced the negative effects of substance abuse on some level. Addiction can destroy lives and shatter families, and people struggling with substance abuse need compassion and professional support. Unfortunately, some scammers have started taking advantage of people struggling with substance abuse by running fraudulent drug rehab centers. These programs are not only fraudulent and exploitative, but they also do virtually nothing to help the people they entrap and often leave them in worse shape than when they first arrived, expecting treatment.
How Do Rehab Scams Work?
Most rehab scams work by promising potential patients high-quality inpatient care and the usual amenities one would expect from a reputable substance abuse treatment facility. In reality, these scams lure people in with the promise of helping their addictions and then do everything they can to keep them in their programs as long as possible. This enables them to bill insurance carriers and obtain government subsidies.
Signs Of A Rehab Scam
Many survivors of rehab scams report similar situations. Typically, an unwary patient agrees to enter treatment and arrives at the facility only to find it is not what he or she expected. Instead of a place to get clean safely, these fraudulent rehab centers often have people openly doing drugs in flophouses, often shuttling them from house to house to keep the scam going as long as possible, billing their victims’ insurance as they go.
Anyone seeking substance abuse treatment should know how to spot the most common signs of a rehab scam:
- Minimal online presence. If a rehab center’s website is little more than a digital business card with no original photography, staff bios, or verifiable reviews from happy past patients, consider this a red flag that the rehab center is not legitimate.
- Be wary of referral services. A referral service that claims to match patients with the best rehab center may actually only send patients to rehab centers they own. Some scams pose as referral centers to convince people to attend scam rehab programs.
- The person arranging admission to the rehab program only offers vague details. When you speak to a substance abuse treatment center representative, you should expect the rep to provide some specific information about the rehab facility, the amenities and treatments offered, and transparent billing information.
- Avoid clicking on paid ads in Google searches. Scammers have learned how to manipulate Google’s search algorithm and place their scam ads among legitimate paid ads. The problem reached a critical point, forcing Google to temporarily disable paid ads for countless rehab centers across the country*.
These are just a few warning signs of a rehab scam. The best way to avoid these scams is to take time to thoroughly research a rehab center before contacting the center about possible admission. Look for third-party review sites, check the credentials claimed on the website, and see if you can find any professional records of any staff listed on the site.
Potential Dangers Of Rehab Scams
Once a rehab scam successfully convinces a person to enroll, they will do everything possible to keep the person entrapped and on the hook for insurance billing. It is not uncommon for these scams to charge astronomical amounts immediately after accepting a patient. Once involved in a rehab scam, an unwary individual could then face similar circumstances to those he or she just escaped; traveling from flophouse to flophouse while continuing to use drugs so the rehab scammers can keep billing his or her insurance.
Rehab scams not only defraud insurance companies of vast sums of money, they also put their victims in very real danger. These individuals arrive seeking help only to find themselves pushed further into substance abuse by people who want to exploit them for financial gain. These are predatory, unscrupulous systems that take advantage of people in their darkest hours.
What To Look For In A Rehab Program
If you or a loved one need help for a substance abuse disorder, it is absolutely essential to thoroughly research a rehab center before agreeing to treatment or making any kind of financial commitment. Many people travel out of state for rehab, so a tour beforehand may not be realistically feasible. However, there are several ways to verify a rehab center’s legitimacy before agreeing to treatment.
How To Verify A Rehab Program’s Legitimacy
Modern rehab centers typically publish information-rich content on their websites to help potential patients learn more about their services and better understand the need to seek treatment for substance abuse as soon as possible. If you find a potential rehab provider but the website is essentially bare of valuable content, take this as a sign the rehab center could be a scam.
Avoid referral services whenever possible. Most of these services are actually owned by rehab centers and they simply funnel unwary applicants to the centers they own to boost profits. Even if they are reputable substance abuse treatment centers, this is still a deceptive practice and these centers may not provide adequate treatment for everyone or every kind of addiction.
You may want to consider specialized treatment instead of looking for a generic substance abuse treatment clinic. For example, if you suffer from opioid addiction, you should try to find a treatment center that has some level of verifiable expertise with opioid addiction. Look for information on the center’s website that shows their doctors have specific experience with opioid addiction. Online reviews can be a great source of information. However, you must remember it would be relatively easy for rehab scammers to fake reviews to add a semblance of legitimacy to their operations.