New Laws Tighten ESA Rules.
New Federal and state rules designed to combat online fraud now require a much higher burden of proof for those claiming a disability-related need for an emotional support animal letter.
Patches, ID cards, certificates, or similar registration will no longer suffice. Clinicians are prohibited from providing written documentation by merely assessing a client's need for an assistance animal. Landlords are reporting emotional support animal fraud to the US Department of Justice.
From HUD's Update.
The dangers of buying counterfeit emotional support animal letters aren’t always obvious. There are economic impacts, legal implications, and other risks that are important for you to know before making a purchase. Counterfeiters don’t care about your well-being. They just want to make a profit.
"Some websites sell certificates, registrations, and licensing documents for assistance animals to anyone who answers certain questions or participates in a short interview and pays a fee."
In 2020, these counterfeit documents are being summarily rejected by housing providers across the US.
Attention Clients, Don't Leave Anything to Chance.
Housing Pro 2020 fully complies with the recently updated guidance requiring providers to have “personal client knowledge" and an "ongoing treating relationship."
All of our products include therapeutic care with a licensed clinician in your area.
Before you buy an emotional support animal letter.
With so many choices and options available, how do you know which online ESA company is right for you? As experts in the field, we urge anyone interested in their first emotional support animal letter to do some homework.
We’ve shopped around, and honestly, urge great caution when dealing with other online vendors.
On a dare, we got one company to go along with certifying our emotional support animal, Bigfoot, an 11-ton elephant, and have received downright fraudulent letters written by out-of-state therapists.
Frankly, some of these letters would not get your ESA past the doorman.
We’ve reviewed those Google Adwords ads showing next to your search and determined that nearly every ESA vendor engages in pay-per-click advertising is suspect — bogus information, fraudulent practices, sketchy letters.
We feel your pain, we do.
So, before you begin to shop, read our top seven mistakes to avoid when buying an ESA letter. Sometimes knowing what NOT to do is just as important as knowing what TO do!
MISTAKE 1: Buy an emotional support animal letter based on price alone
We know your budget is important, but make sure you get an emotional support animal letter that will be recognized and accepted is critical. While an entry-level ESA letter might be better on your budget now, there’s an excellent chance it will be denied, likely resulting in costly expenses right around the corner.
If you think you can spend $22 on “quality mental health care,” like those dirt-cheap letters you can easily find online, we wish you the best of luck. Once you submit a bogus dirt-cheap letter readily found online, and that accommodation request is (rightly) denied, you just raised one heck of a big red flag — and one tough obstacle to overcome.
Think that’s a good deal? Read their reviews.
Also, avoid any site offering to register your animal.
- There’s no such thing as “registering” your animal.
- The first ad we’re familiar with, as we “registered” our emotional support elephant.
That’s our “competition”, that’s the fraud infested waters we find ourselves in … that’s the reason why the government is rewriting the rules later this year.
MISTAKE 2: Make sure to know whom you’re dealing with
Examine the company’s website. Do they list an address? Google Map it, and you’re likely to find many ESA vendors operate from a Post Office box in a UPS store.
- Did you Google Map the location?
- Was the location an actual office?
- Actual corporate identity listed?
- Can you determine the corporate ownership?
- Who owns the company?
MISTAKE 3: Hello, is anyone there?
Make sure to speak with someone based here in the US, and not an offshore call center. That’s the number one rule — talk to someone, and when (if) you get them on the phone, ask the following:
- The location (city) of their clinician(s). Make sure your referring therapist is based and licensed within your state.
- Ask for the ESA vendor’s business address. I would verify their location and closely examine their reviews.
MISTAKE 4: Security and privacy matter a lot to us, and it should to you also.
The last thing you need to hear is that your credit card information has been compromised. That’s why we’ve gone through the time-consuming and costly process of being vetted and certified with Norton Secured. Our service meets the highest standards for protecting consumer information.
Unfortunately, most all other ESA vendors will just illegally include the Norton Secured Seal logo (making you believe they’re certified).
So, how do you know the difference? Simply click the logo. Does it do anything (i.e. take you to the Norton site and show the vendor’s information)?
- Are third-party security logos (Norton, McAfee) clickable?
- For California residents, does the vendor have a California Privacy Rights policy?
- Have you run a “Who IS” on the domain, determining ownership and location?
- Is the domain privacy protected?
MISTAKE 5: Know your therapist
We offer access to licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists (PhD / PsyD), marriage and family therapists (LMFT), clinical social workers (LCSW), and board licensed professional counselors (LPC).
- Does the therapist practice and reside in your state?
- Is the therapist located within a reasonable distance from your residence?
- Does the vendor offer additional counseling services?
- Did you Google your therapist and find unfavorable media reports?
MISTAKE 6: Ignoring HIPAA requirements
We are obsessed about securing your privacy and confidentiality. We have built a state-of-the-art technology, operation, and infrastructure with one thing in mind: protecting your privacy and safeguarding the information you provide.
Vendors MUST have a signed Business Associates Agreement (BAA) with every organization that comes into contact with EPHI data for which you are considered a “covered entity.”
- Do they have a published HIPAA compliance statement?
- What are their policies in case of a data breach?
- Who has access to your protected health information?
- What kinds of physical security safeguards are in place?
- What cybersecurity solutions have been implemented?
MISTAKE 7: Taking reviews at face value
Most review sites like TrustPilot and SiteJabber allow fake 5-star reviews to be posted with no validation or verification.
The incentives for allowing these fake kudos go beyond making a company look good. For each review and each additional comment, ESA vendors can claim more visits, more traffic, and more sales, which means more money for them.
Here are some dead giveaways that the reviews you’re reading is not real:
- A deluge of reviews posted in a short amount of time.
- Look for overuse of “I” and “me” and a lot of verbs.
- Look for phrase repetition.
- Watch out for generic names and/or photo-less profiles.
- Dig deeper into the reviewer profile.
- Look at the middle-of-the-road reviews.
- When in doubt, reach out.
Some guy registered beer as a Service Animal
In late December, a Brooklyn resident named Floyd Hayes registered beer—yes, the beverage—as his “service animal,” as first reported by Ale Street News. As with the beehive, this was done via the website USAServiceDogRegistration.com, where “Beer” (style unspecified) is now listed as an emotional support animal for Hayes’ social anxiety disorder.bogus