How Not to Get Entrapped by Rehab Scammers

Harmony Foundation in Estes Park, Colorado can look back on more than 50 years of excellence in treating substance use disorder (SUD) in a residential setting. While treatment modalities for addiction have significantly improved over the decades, Harmony and its clients now have to contend with difficulties that didn’t exist in the 20th century.

The internet can connect people and provide a good deal of useful information but it can also be abused by bad actors taking advantage of desperate people looking for help.

In September 2017, the technology website The Verge published an expose on how vulnerable people were targeted by ads on search engines for treatment centers that were scams. “Google is the biggest source of patients for most treatment centers. Advertisers tell Google how much they want to spend on search ads per month, which keywords they’d like those ads to run against, and then pay Google every time someone clicks on their ad,” Cat Ferguson reported for The Verge at the time.

While many treatment centers market themselves ethically, there are also significant numbers of bad actors using deceptive and even illegal tactics to get “heads into beds.” Google has tried to stop scammers but it’s a complicated struggle and nefarious practices continue.

In recent weeks, Harmony Foundation became aware of several unethical attempts to defraud people with addiction seeking treatment. “A woman called us seeking admission for her husband,” recalls Justin Barclay, the director of client support services at Harmony. “After listening carefully to the caller, the Harmony representative suggested they start the process of admitting her spouse to the program. To his surprise, the woman answered ‘But we already started the process on a previous call.’ She had talked to someone called ‘Timmy’ but nobody by that name works at Harmony. She had talked with an imposter.”

When Barclay called that number himself, they kept up the charade until he identified himself as a Harmony employee at which point they quickly hung up. “A gentleman who recently called Harmony about treatment for himself had also initially been redirected to a fake phone number.”

How to Be Safe

How can you make sure you’re being connected to the party you actually want to reach? Step one: be aware that scammers exist and use caution when making internet searches. Sadly, there are unscrupulous people out there who prey on the vulnerable.

Don’t necessarily trust the first number offered in a Google search on your smartphone. Sometimes callers even get connected to someone claiming to be with an admissions department who then tries to sign them up for an illegitimate program.

Always check the actual website of the organization you’re trying to contact. Our website is and our phone number (866) 686-7867 can be found on that website. We do not have satellite facilities in Florida or Arizona—if you get connected to somebody who claims that, you’re not talking to Harmony.

“It’s really sad when people with addiction who are trying to launch their recovery journey are met with subterfuge and deceit,” says Barclay. “It’s a process that requires courage and integrity. Recovery should not start dishonesty.”

Our admission process begins when you submit an online form to help you understand what is covered by your insurance plan or by calling one of our admissions specialists at (866) 686-7867. We’ll have a conversation to better understand your history so a recommendation can be made by our medical and clinical professionals on the appropriate residential or outpatient level of care.

When you call Harmony Foundation or any other legitimate provider, it is important to be honest and upfront about your substance use and not hide aspects of your condition as we will base our assessment of your needs and level-of-care requirements on your information. And avoid the temptation of going on one last binge before checking into rehab. Addiction is a dangerous disease. Beware of scammers, find a treatment program that is right for you, and start your recovery as soon as possible.