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Fake Urgent Care centers popping up across Arizona

Online searches lead to dumpsters and a gun shop
Posted at 10:00 PM, Feb 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-24 13:20:58-05

PHOENIX, AZ — Let's say you get a burn while cooking, you injure yourself in the garage or maybe you have a cold that lingers.

Doctors offices may be closed and emergency rooms are too expensive.

In these situations, many of us go online and search for urgent care centers near us. But before you get in the car, make sure the urgent care is really there!

Years ago, Tom Waddington says the address of the house where he was staying showed up in a Google search as an urgent care. He knew it was just a house, and not a medical facility.

Waddington is a 'Google My Business' product expert.

He says he got curious and started doing Google searches for urgent care centers around the country.

Waddington says he found addresses that were empty lots, other houses, and some addresses that just aren't there.

When we searched for urgent cares in Apache Junction, we found Achre Urgent Care -- but the address turned out to be a dumpster.

Day/Night urgent care showed up near the top of a Scottsdale online Google search. I went to the address listed and it didn't exist.

A Google search in Mesa lists Avid Urgent Care on Main Street. I went there and found it would be the middle of the road. The address isn't real, but the phone number with the listing did work.

I called asking for directions and I was told they don't take appointments. But they did have a doctor who would call me back, and that seems to be the business: doctor by phone.

Waddington says with Google, businesses show up in online searches if they have a physical address, even if it's fake.

"They just want someone to find that phone number in search results and call," he says.

We found about a dozen Arizona urgent cares showing up in Google searches that are not real.

Addresses lead to a mobile home park in Chandler, a busy intersection in Tucson and an elementary school in Avondale.

If you need immediate help, the concern is obvious: you might drive to the location and not get help you need.

Some say they did just that.

Google reviewer Mary says she had "shortness of breath."

She writes: "We couldn't find the place."

Daniel writes in his review: "Address not at location."

He says he was "really sick and this is not helping."

Becky says her urgent care address was "a junk yard."

A Google map search shows it's actually a gun and ammo shop.

So who is behind this?

I called one of the urgent cares with a sinus condition that I had at the time.

I'm was told a doctor is supposed to call back. Instead, it was all done by text. Medical history, medicines taken, allergies and more all asked and answered via text message.

Within minutes, there were three prescriptions waiting. They included Azithromycin and Prednisone.

To get the medicine, I paid the $196 diagnosis fee. After paying, I found the prescriptions waiting at the pharmacy.

The diagnosis charge came from FastenP LLC.

We found it's listed as a Georgia business owned by Alice Minkoff -- and it's Alice Minkoff NP who prescribed my medicine.

While Minkoff does have Arizona nursing licenses, we found she does not have the ability to write prescriptions.

Janeen Dahn confirmed that. She is Associate Director of the Arizona State Board of Nursing.

Dahn also confirmed Minkoff did apply for "prescriptive authority." That involves extra education to be able to write prescriptions.

But at their January meeting, the Board denied it. The board also issued a complaint against Minkoff's nursing licenses.

Dahn says she can't talk specifically about Minkoff or any actions.

Records show in November, the Colorado State Board of Nursing suspended Minkoff's nursing licenses for "calling in prescriptions" without "prescriptive authority".

They say among other things, Minkoff "made diagnoses and treatment recommendations without proper work up and for conditions that required lab work and/or in person review of symptoms".

Instead, they say "on many occasions, respondent provided nursing care to patients solely through text messaging."

We tried calling and emailing the business, FastenP, but either someone hung up or we got no response.

The numbers are now disconnected.

Dahn says there's a good reason nurses must take further steps to write prescriptions.

She says, "If you don't have the education to prescribe, you're putting the public at risk."

That hearing involving Minkoff's nursing licenses should happen soon.

We contacted Google and asked about their search policies and the fake urgent care addresses found.

This is the response we got from Google:

"We're committed to keeping fraudulent content off of Google Maps and have acted quickly to take down a number of fake urgent care listings in Arizona. We have strict policies in place to address fake listings and also have tools for people to flag issues so we can take action."

Google says they have removed other fraudulent listings from FastenP in the past.

They say they have automated detection systems that look for content that violates their policies.

But, Google says, scammers find new techniques to get around protections.

Waddington says Google has not been doing enough to police their business searches.

He says there is more that needs to be done or this will continue to happen.