View Satellite Medical Exam
Summary: Victims are convinced to pose outside so that a satellite camera can diagnose their medical condition.
During the past three decades the resolution of satellite-based cameras has greatly increased, and satellite imagery has grown in importance for the work of both businesses and governments. Nevertheless, satellites remain poorly understood by much of the public. This lack of understanding has inspired both hoaxes and scams. A surprisingly common scam involves the claim that satellites can be used to conduct long-distance medical exams.
Examples of the Satellite Medical Exam Scam
Brent Eric Finley of Rayville, Louisiana convinced his friends and family that his wife, Stacey Finley, was a CIA agent who had access to top-secret satellite imaging technology. He told them that she could arrange to have a medical scan of their bodies performed by satellite imaging. The people merely had to stand outside, in range of the satellite. This scan would supposedly detect hidden medical problems. For a fee, these problems would then be treated. The victims of the scam were told that treatment would be administered while they slept in their bed.
In December, 2007 the Finleys were convicted of bilking their victims out of more than $800,000. They were sentenced to over four years in prison and ordered to pay full restitution.
Mammogram By Satellite
Portuguese newspapers reported in 2002 that a woman posing as a doctor was phoning women and telling them about a revolutionary new technology that allowed breast examinations to be conducted by satellite. All they had to do, she told them, was stand topless in an open window and a passing satellite would conduct a mammogram.
Four women in southern Portugal contacted police and admitted they had fallen for this ruse. The women, aged 19 to 45, all stripped to the waist, as they had been instructed to do, and stood either in their window or on their balcony, facing in the direction of the supposed satellite.
After baring themselves, their phone rang again. However, instead of getting their mammogram results, the women heard the impostor describe her sexual fantasies to them in graphic detail.
A hoax that circulated via email soon after Sept. 11, 2001 took advantage of a similar naivete about the power of satellite imagery. It urged people to light a candle and stand outside their home at a specified date and time (the date varied between versions of the email) so that a NASA satellite could take a photograph of the entire nation illuminated by candlelight. This would supposedly demonstrate the solidarity of the American people in the face of terrorist aggression. The photo was to be posted on NASA’s website the following day.
Unlike the satellite medical exam scam, this hoax was relatively harmless. Of course, NASA never planned to take such a photograph. The light of even 200 million candles spread out over the entire nation would have been invisible from space. Nevertheless, at the specified time numerous people dutifully stepped outside their homes and held a candle up to the sky.
A parody of this email also circulated (though some people, apparently, did not recognize it as a parody). The parody bore some similarity to the later mammogram-by-satellite scam perpetrated in Portugal:
Send this to all the women you know! America needs your help!
The President has asked that we unite for a common cause. Since the hard line Islamic people cannot stand nudity, and consider it a sin to see a naked woman that is not their wife, tonight (Friday) (or any night) at 7:00 PM, all women should run out of their house naked to help weed out the terrorists. The United States appreciates your efforts, and applauds you. God bless America.
(a satellite picture will be taken that will show our unity )
- “Voyeur gets women to bare breasts for satellite.” (June 26, 2002). Telegraph.co.uk.
- “Man sentenced in bizarre diagnosing scam.” (Dec. 6, 2007). Associated Press Online.