It looks like phony sick notes could mean healthy profits.
The I-Team has discovered several websites selling authentic-looking doctor notes that promise to get employees and students out of work or class because of make-believe illnesses.
One of the websites, BestFakeDoctorsNotes.net, promises 30 phony medical excuses for about $18. The Internet business offers a wide variety of fabricated notes allowing customers to fake emergency room visits, cancer, pregnancy and serious illnesses suffered by children. The site also offers to send fakers phony hospital wristbands “proven to triple the note’s believability.”
Administrators of BestFakeDoctorsNotes.net did not return emails seeking comment.
Many of the notes appear quite authentic. The I-Team showed a trio of notes to Ami Yemeni, a Long Island business owner who employs about 70 people at his car wash and distributing operation. One of the three notes was a real medical letter requesting a four to six week absence for an employee’s collapsed lung. The other two notes were fake.
Asked which note looked most authentic, Yemeni picked one of the fakes.
“I can’t believe people go this far out of their way to fake a doctor’s note,” Yemeni said. “This could really cost a small business money. Sick days are expensive and I would hate to think I’d be cheated.” Danya Perry, a former federal prosecutor with experience in medical fraud cases, said administrators of websites that peddle fake doctor notes are almost certainly violating criminal statutes.
“They are overtly pitching fictitious doctors notes in order to commit a fraud. In order to steal from the customers employers,” Perry said.
BestFakeDoctorsNotes.net has a legal disclaimer that says, "We provide novelty doctor's notes with fictitious names and fictitious institutions. Mimicking real medical institutions and medical professionals is likely illegal. We do not do this. However, please check with your local laws."
Perry said that argument would not prevent criminal prosecution because so much of the website boasts about how effective the fake doctor notes are at fooling employers.
“If you look at the limitations of liability provisions, it’s completely contradictory,” she said. “That won’t work for the purposes of criminal liability.”
Perry also said the individuals who buy and pass fake doctor notes could be held criminally liable for employee theft of time or identity theft, but there is more grey area depending on the circumstances of the case.
Is there demand for the fake sick notes? You bet.
The I-Team talked to a local college student who says he used fake doctor notes at least nine times to get out of class. The student talked to the I-Team on the condition that his identity be withheld.
In one case, he said he used a phony medical excuse to duck an important test.
“I mean, it’s not just me. So many people are doing it,” he said.
Last year, New York City passed a mandatory sick leave law which means many workers have more sick days to burn.