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October 19, 2017

Philly: Be wary of fake health department workers knocking on your door

Scams PSA
West Philadelphia Row Home Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Vibrant rowhomes with large porches are a common sight in West Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health wants residents to be on the lookout for "home visit imposters."

A warning circulating among neighborhood Facebook groups this past week cautions the community to be alert to people going door to door, claiming to work for the city and saying they are checking if the children in the homes are up to date on their vaccinations.

One of these fake health officials apparently was armed with personal information about one child's health and pressed a South Philly mom for her kids' Social Security numbers to confirm their identities.

According to the Facebook post, the mom didn't give out the information and instead contacted the health department.


This warning about people posing as health department employees has been circulating on Philadelphia neighborhood Facebook groups.

Jim Garrow, spokesman for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, told PhillyVoice they are aware of incidents like the one detailed in the Facebook post.

"It's scary," Garrow said. "It's definitely something that we don't want to happen."

In an emailed statement, Garrow added that "this is not something we would ever do and we’re appalled by it." 

He clarified that in some cases, health department employees may show up to someone's home unannounced. In those instances, however, the worker should identify themselves with an official government ID.

Here's Garrow's full statement:

The Health Department is concerned about reports we’ve heard of people pretending to be our employees and asking for personal information from families. We’re happy that the Police Department is involved and will continue to give them all of the assistance they need for their investigation.

Because of the work that we do, Health Department employees have to visit some people’s homes. Sometimes these visits will be scheduled beforehand, so you know that we’re coming. If we show up unannounced, our employees will show an official City ID and introduce themselves. If you are nervous or unsure about someone claiming to be a Health Department employee, please call 911 immediately. It’s also important to know that we will NEVER ask for personal, identifying information like Social Security numbers.

For more information and resources about the city's public health programs, check out the department's website. And, as stated by Garrow, if someone you believe is posing as a city employee comes to your door, call the cops.