AUSTIN (KXAN) — A company involved with administering millions of vaccinations around the country and in the Austin area calls it a “clerical error”: A mistake on a letter sent to some customers. But a Georgetown woman who got the letter says that typo could have put her and others at risk.

The letter itself wasn’t that concerning to Heather Moeller.

“At the time your COVID-19 vaccination was performed,” she read from the letter, “you either provided invalid information or no insurance information.”

It’s just a medical insurance miscommunication, she thought — something she figured she could probably clear up with a call.

The letter stated it came from a company called Curative Med Associates. It was a name Moeller said she recognized as the group that administered COVID-19 vaccinations to her and two of her daughters last year.

  • Heather Moeller reads a copy of the letter she received from Curative. (KXAN Photo/Mike Rush)
  • Image of the letter Heather Moeller received from Curative. (Courtesy Heather Moeller)

The letter gave options of a number to call, a fax and an online link to resolve the claim. So, Moeller called and said that’s when she became concerned.

“Initially, it seemed to be pretty straightforward until the person asked me for credit card information, that there would be a onetime $4.95 charge for processing this information,” she recalled.

Moeller said that was a red flag, so she did not give out her credit card number and ended the call.

“It’s just not right, so that’s why I reported it to you guys,” she said.

KXAN Investigator Mike Rush contacted Curative. A spokesman confirmed the letter was from the company, but in a statement wrote, “It came to our attention that these letters contained an incorrect phone number and our vendor is actively in the process of sending out updated letters with the corrected contact information.”

The Curative spokesman also said the company has never asked patients for any kind of processing fee or payment for COVID-19 vaccine services.

Heather Moeller discusses her concerns with the letter she got from Curative with KXAN Investigator Mike Rush. (KXAN Photo/Chris Nelson)
Heather Moeller discusses her concerns with the letter she got from Curative with KXAN Investigator Mike Rush. (KXAN Photo/Chris Nelson)

The telephone number was off by one number. A six should have been a five.

Several times, Rush called the incorrect number Curative said was mistakenly put on its letter and several times he was hung up on when he either identified himself or started asking questions. Other times, he was not hung up on.

The calls all started with recordings telling Rush he was eligible for a $100 rebate voucher. Once, a recording told Rush to have a credit card ready. Another time, after a recording, a person asked Rush for his credit card number.

“Well, we need a card to verify for the $1.95 that will come off the card tomorrow. Helps with the processing and mailing fee,” the person on the line told Rush.

Over the course of the calls, some of those on the other end gave Rush three different company names, so KXAN Investigates can’t verify who they are or what their intentions were.

Mark Fetterhoff with AARP’s Fraud Watch Network said the way the calls played out, and the fact that the number was off by one digit, sounds similar to something they call “The fat finger dial.”

“It’s a very common practice that scammers try to buy customer service numbers,” said Fetterhoff. “We’ll see it with government agencies. We’ll see it with popular businesses where they’re getting a phone number that is essentially one number off from that number in hopes that people mistakenly dial it.”

But instead of misdialing, Fetterhoff said the mistake in the number may have inadvertently sent customers to someone trying to get personal or financial information.

Curative wouldn’t say how many people got the letter, but the company’s website states that, along with its managed medical entities, Curative has provided 2 million COVID-19 vaccines across the country.

After Moeller first spoke with KXAN Investigates, she said she did get a second letter from Curative with the corrected number, but with no mention of the mistake on the first. She just hopes other customers don’t become vulnerable.

“I think about people that are very busy, maybe less suspicious or less guarded, older individuals,” Moeller said.

If you’re a Curative customer with one of these letters and you’re unsure what number to call, Curative gave KXAN Investigates two numbers: 866-445-6719 and 888-702-9042.

If you call a number that you suspect is fraudulent, the AARP recommends you call its fraud watch helpline at 877-908-3360.