An ever-vigilant AOA, its state affiliates and members continue to keep an eye out for swindles, cons and scams that pose harm to the vision health of the American public.
The advertising materials engage in promoting unsupported theories about the causes of vision impairment, and unfounded scaremongering regarding widely accepted methods of vision correction.
On Tuesday, the AOA sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) calling for an investigation into a company peddling online a product that purports to restore 20/20 vision within weeks. In the complaint, the AOA alleges that "Outback Vision Protocol" poses a threat to the visual health of the public with unsubstantiated claims that especially prey on the fears of older consumers.
"In addition to the groundless impugning of the integrity and professionalism of the nation's approximately 44,000 dedicated doctors of optometry, the advertising materials (of Outback Vision Protocol) engage in promoting unsupported theories about the causes of vision impairment, and unfounded scaremongering regarding widely accepted methods of vision correction," the AOA said in the letter.
"Consumers of this misinformation may be discouraged from seeing a doctor of optometry, which may put them at risk for uncorrected vision impairment as well as undiagnosed conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, high blood pressure, and diabetes—all of which can be detected during a routine, comprehensive eye examination," the letter said.
Arkansas doctors of optometry report abuses
Also, on Tuesday, the Arkansas Optometric Associated (ArOA) alerted that the state's attorney general's office and its own members about a voice phishing scam (known as "vishing"). A caller to an Arkansas doctor of optometry insisted an office manager confirm the doctor of optometry's national provider identifier, his DEA identifier number for writing prescriptions for drugs, and his state license number.
When the manager balked, the caller insisted on talking to the doctor or risk deactivation of the numbers if the information was not forthcoming. The doctor directed his manager to hang up the telephone and they filed an online complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency.
"We knew it was a scam," the doctor of optometry says. "We know if it's official it will be sent via a letter."
The alert, which was sent Tuesday by AROA executive director Vicki Farmer, immediately yielded a half dozen responses from optometric practices in Arkansas that reported receiving similar inquiries from callers identifying themselves as being with the "DEA."
"It's important for doctors of optometry and their practices to protect themselves against threats concerning their identity," Farmer says. "Doctors of optometry and paraoptometric staff should pay attention to the AOA and your state affiliate news for warnings and ways to protect yourself from these attacks. As soon as ArOA was notified of the first threat, we sprang into action to provide information to our members on how to report these scams and how to avoid falling into a trap—not giving out any information, demanding names and call back numbers, checking with the agency the person says they are representing, and reporting the incident to the federal and state authorities."
5 ways to prevent falling victim to scams
Whether it's phishing by email or phone, doctors of optometry and their paraoptometric staff can protect themselves and their patients. Beyond reporting abuses, they can:
- Be suspicious: Take a skeptical approach to any unsolicited email or phone call, especially those asking for personal, financial or network security information.
- Keep confidential information confidential: Personal, financial or network security information that falls into the wrong hands can cost you and your business dearly.
- Be wary of links, web addresses: Spear-phishing scams often mimic trusted parties by making miniscule changes in email extensions or links.
- Make contact: Reach out to the actual business or entity that supposedly sent the email or called to verify its validity.
In the letter to the FTC regarding Outback Vision Protocol, the AOA pointed out its ties to internet marketing service Software Projects Inc., which previously promoted a product called Quantum Vision System with similar false and misleading claims.
"As of today, Software Projects, Inc. has 14 negative customer reviews on the Better Business Bureau website or a total of 32 reviews, with multiple complaints regarding unauthorized charges for undelivered products," the letter said.
The scams—aimed at patients and doctors of optometry alike—underscore the work that the AOA and affiliates do to bring public awareness to such misleading claims. Whenever the AOA finds violations of federal and state laws, the AOA and its state associations are ready to press the case that these operations are a danger to public health. For instance, the AOA continues to aggressively fight for crackdowns on online contact lens sellers' deceptive and unlawful tactics that can ultimately restrict patient choice and put patient health at risk, including:
- Every day in October, the AOA issued a letter to a contact lens seller previously flagged for suspicious business practices or apparent disregard of federal law. This '31 in 31' campaign confronts vendors and informs them of the regulatory requirements related to the sale of contact lenses in the United States.
- The AOA makes it easy for doctors and patients to report suspected illegal sales of contact lenses with its StopIllegalCLs@aoa.org.
- The AOA supported an FTC ruling upheld on Oct. 20 that cited 1-800 Contacts for anti-competitive and anti-consumer online advertising practices.
Paraoptometric attendance at the AOA’s premier advocacy conference, May 23-25, helps reinforce optometry’s case for immediate changes that will affect the entire practice.
Virtual AOA on Capitol Hill, May 23-25, is open to all advocacy-minded doctors, optometry students and paraoptometrics. Learn the issues and get involved at optometry’s premier advocacy event.
As AOA advocates in new federal relief legislation and recognition of optometry’s ability to support the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine campaign, Ohio calls on volunteer doctors of optometry to assist.