Phone Scam, Part 1: Renee and Debra

Falling for the Scam

"In all my years, I've never been more outraged by what people are doing to me, my family and my viewers," says Dr. Phil. Recently, 800 numbers have been popp

ing up in directory assistance claiming to put callers in direct contact with Dr. Phil. But, those numbers led right to con artists posing as Dr. Phil staff members waiting to bilk innocent people out of their hard-earned money. Renee became one of their victims.


"I called the Dr. Phil show because of the Man Camp project. It was a way to get more excited about your marriage," Renee explains. "I called information and I asked for the Dr. Phil show. She gave me an 800 number, and I called it. A lady named Cher answered the phone. She said that she was the director of the Dr. Phil show. She would say, ‘Can you please hold? We're about to go to commercial, and I need a countdown. I'll put you on hold and come back.' I've never been involved in television or anything, so I had no way of knowing how things are done."

After Renee answered some basic questions, she says Cher told her that Dr. Phil could personally talk to her on the phone, but it would be $375 for an hour's worth of counseling. "I'm like, ‘Well, that's reasonable. I'll do that.' She asked me to Western Union the money. It wasn't being wired to the Dr. Phil show. It was being wired to a lady named Ann Lee. I

was like, ‘I'm not comfortable sending money to a lady named Ann Lee when this is for counseling for Dr. Phil.' She was like, ‘Oh, it's his personal assistant.' And I was like, ‘OK,' So, I went ahead and got the wire done," Renee says. She worked with Cher for a few days to make an appointment to speak with "Dr. Phil," but they couldn't work it out in the schedule. "At this point, I was getting a little antsy, and I wanted some justification of why this keeps running in circles. So she faxed me a letter with letterhead, an address." The fake fax said Dr. Phil Robbin at the top and had an address in Houston, Texas. After she received the fax, Renee had another phone conversation with Cher. "She said, ‘You know what? Dr. Phil thinks that he can make a show out of this.
He wants to counsel you and your husband one-on-one in Florida, so we're going to need another $1,700.' By that time, I was like, ‘Really?' And I said, ‘We need to get this done,'" Renee recalls. "Cher gave me a phone call and she says, ‘OK Renee, I'm going to patch Dr. Phil through.' So she put this man on the phone who had a southern accent, and he says, ‘I'm going to give you and your husband some great tools. Everything is going to be great.' I kind of said, ‘Gosh, this really doesn't sound like you, Dr. Phil.' And he goes, ‘Well, you know, with the cell phones and the
studio and the echo and stuff.' He goes, ‘But look, everything is going to be great.' He goes, ‘I'm going to put you back on with Cher.' At that point in time I was like, 'This is not right. That man was not Dr. Phil. He was not assertive. He was not articulate.' I hung up the phone.

"I finally got a hold of the real Dr. Phil show, and I let them know that I think I've been scammed," Renee says. "I am hoping that Dr. Phil can get to the bottom of this."

Debra, a viewer from Tennessee, had a similar experience. She says she wired half of her monthly income to get help from Dr. Phil.


"I wanted to contact Dr. Phil because of extensive back pain," explains Debra, who got the phone number from information. "A girl answered the phone. ‘Hello, this is Phil's line. This is Cher, the director. How can I help you?' I told her that I really needed to talk to Dr. Phil. That I needed some help." Debra says that Cher told her to wire $375 through Western Union to a lady named Ann Lee. "She said, ‘OK, he'll call you at 8:30. Thank you.'" 


Debra says she didn't receive a call from Dr. Phil, so she called back. "Cher said, ‘Dr. Phil is taping right now. He said he'll call you back. Just give him about an hour.' So I waited, and he never called," she recalls. "I called our CBS affiliate here, and I asked for a nu

mber for Dr. Phil. That's when things started rolling."


Dr. Phil had no idea that these scams were going on until his producer informed him recently. He calls Debra, and she explains to him what happened to her.


"They said that the way it works is, you send $375 by Western Union and that Dr. Phil did talk to people over the phone," she tells him.

"This is the real Dr. Phil, and I'm telling you that is a scam and those people need to go to jail," Dr. Phil says. "I am sorry that you have been taken advantage of." He vows to find the scammers.