Medical Info Stolen In Drugs Scam

A scam to steal people’s medical details to secure prescriptions for the heroin substitute drug, diazepam, has been uncovered in County Antrim. Last week, a 77-year-old woman got a phone call, allegedly from a Ballymena health centre.

“The caller said that a temporary worker had wiped computer files and asked to check my details,” she said. The same caller later rang the centre and used the stolen details to request drugs commonly used by heroin addicts

Jacqueline McLaughlin, who manages two of the doctors’ practices at the clinic, said a receptionist became suspicious. “The caller initially pretended to be the other person. But she got details wrong. She sounded desperate,” she said. “Later, she rang back and said she was a neighbour and friend of the woman’s. She gave a name, Jennifer.

“She said the woman’s daughter had been involved in a big traffic accident and that the woman needed diazepam to calm her,” Mrs McLaughlin explained. “She said she would go and collect it on the woman’s behalf.”

But the health centre became suspicious as they knew the patient. They checked and found that the story was false. Mrs McLaughlin said it was the first case she knew about in her Ballymena practice, but she had heard of similar attempts to secure drugs in other practices in County Antrim.

Diazepam can be used to suppress the side effects of heroin, she said. It is reportedly sold for £1 a pill on the streets in Ballymena. Mrs McLaughlin said people should be made aware of the scam and should not give out medical details over the telephone.

“The public needs to be made aware. We do not want this kind of crime to escalate. If people ring requesting medical details, say you are busy and will ring them back,” she advised.

The matter has been reported to the police.