Enhance federal enforcement of civil & criminal interstate marketing fraud
One of the many contributors to fraud and abuse in the private treatment side of the opioid crisis is false and misleading advertising. Millions of dollars are spent to gain placement, particularly for on-line internet access, to create a funnel from one part of the country to treatment destinations such as Florida, Arizona, Texas and California. In many cases, phone numbers and maps of legitimate providers are hijacked by unscrupulous marketers. On-line positioning in one geographic area can mislead the caller into thinking a facility is local, when the local number is in reality a Trojan horse, answered by a lead generator and sold downstream to the highest bidder. These phone calls are extremely valuable. In some cases, a downstream lead generated call may cost a facility or marketer $1,000 or more, once insurance is validated.
In 2017, Florida enacted landmark legislation to get tough on the false, misleading and abusive practices in the marketing of addiction services, making them criminal and civil violations of state law. Many fraudulent marketers, however, are operating on a regional or national level, and jurisdictional and investigatory limitations severely hinder effective state action. Lack of resources is also a problem. Local law enforcement is not equipped to investigate large marketing firms operating over state lines. Holding abusive interstate marketers and marketing systems to task, both civilly and criminally, should be made a priority of the appropriate federal agencies.