Cloaking

 Ancient, falling apart caboose. 

So, imagine some company somewhere has, out of the kindness and benevolence of their own hearts, decided to take it upon themselves to make sure you know about every single negative review ever made about you the instant it happens. 

This was unsolicited, mind you. You never asked for it. How the hell did they get your email address, anyway, you wonder? In fact, you have asked, nay you have demanded, that they cease and desist, but still the emails come, preying upon your human insecurities in the hopes of selling their product. They merely want to remind you that they will, for a small fee, work to have those negative reviews removed or will post their own fake positive reviews for you. 

So every day, the emails come. Each one you see takes a little more of your soul.

Then, you wonder, are all of these negative posts even real? Or are they, too, a fabrication made by this company, posted to generate a visceral response, the angst needed to get you to write that check?

Then, one day you get an alert and the review contains information specific to a patient who left just minutes before. This one is real! So you call them to ask why? The accusations made in the review are inflammatory, false, a twisting of the truth. It makes it appear that you are an unscrupulous money whore. BUT, the patient denies that they ever left a review and states that they are happy with their care. 

So what do you do?

More tomorrow…

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105 thoughts on “Cloaking

    • This was not me. The email was actually another physician’s experience. Was the patient lying? Were they a plant? Was it actually a fake review and it was an odd coincidence that the details coincided with that particular visit? Dunno.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You didn’t mention whether the early emails referred to real patients, but they must have been good enough to be convincing. It is the last email that concerns me—the one ostensibly from a patient who had just left the office. I think the suggestion below that the information has become public leads down the wrong path—you would have seen other effects from that. One thing we don’t know is whether the “organization” sending these emails really exists. Kind of hard to know since this is an extortion, which is illegal and they would want to keep hidden.

        Two possibilities come to mind: a hack making the doc’s calendar available; and, an insider who already has access. If it was a hack, there would be more than one doctor in the world to whom this had happened. You say you don’t know of any, which seems unlikely if it was wide-spread. That would lead me to look for an insider first. Anger could be a sufficient motive.

        Another possibility would be a spear fishing attack that got lucky with the last patient. Still seems like some access to the doc’s patient records is needed, tho.

        Happy hunting.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ooooh! I like the inside job thing… The issue with this is doctors are not going to be posting all over the internet when something like this happens. Does not instill confidence, right? And we rarely get to socialize with each other and when we do we don’t say, “Let me tell you about my experience with this negative review.” Embarrassing. I did some digging and the company is real.

        Liked by 1 person

      • What access is required to read the reviews? Or to know about them? I didn’t expect that you would be using Facebook to discuss these things, or that they would come up at parties, but there are professional channels for current information that might carry warnings. And, you did hear about this.

        I still think the attack as you have laid it out requires more information than a spammer would be expected to have.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The reviews are open on the internet. Places like ZocDoc and Google and Rate MDs. Then the review is sent to the physician in question, as part of an email, verbatim from whichever site it is on. So you can look them up yourself. They exist on the World Wide Web. Nothing like this has been discussed at professional meetings but again, doctors are not like that. This is why fighting something in a unified manner is difficult. You have me an idea though about calling the state and national professional organizations to see if they have info that they are not sharing. I also wonder if they single out certain specialities, the ones perceived to be most dependent on reviews and the one with the deepest pockets…

        Liked by 1 person

      • When you are thinking about extortion, two things are important: vulnerability and money. Docs being unwilling to discuss embarrassing subjects—heaven forbid anyone should ever receive a negative review—exacerbates any other vulnerability they might have. It’s like reporting a rape—won’t happen much. So, follow the money.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. In common terms, this is criminal behaviour… Is it criminal in a legal sense too? Have other doctors experienced the same? Is it worth taking to the media, or social media about it, or is it better to ignore it as spam? I don’t envy you dealing with this. Intrigued about part two…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Is it not so that between physician and patient there is some kind of confidential agreement to not disclose details unless in the interest of an exceptional situation to prevent an outbreak, solve a crime or something else that can be considered in the (urgent) public interest?

    When certain details emerge the questions you have to ask are simple:
    1. What or who is the source?
    2. How or why did this information became public?
    3. What are the direct reasons or interests?
    4. What can I confirm to be true?
    5. Is the information complete?
    6. Is this information disclosure reason for mediation or a legal process?

    When your intuition tells you this might be a threat to your practice consult an expert and stay calm. Medical data is not a joke.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m hooked, and hope I catch the next episode. As for me, I would take this straight to the Attorney General’s office. They all have regulations about spam and electronic scams these days. You might not be the only one with a problem, and many times the state will act.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read yesterday’s post on my phone which mangles comments so badly I didn’t bother commenting.

    But! This? I agree with the folks who have said that this is a breach of confidentiality. If they posted a review from a patient who said they had not posted it, well, then it’s time to shut them down.

    I am lucky enough to have chosen my doctors before these reviews were commonplace. As with restaurants and other products, usually the people who are happy with it don’t bother reviewing it. It’s the crabs who need to mouth off.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Omg! This is the issue I fight against and WILL ALWAYS do so concerning this love affair we have with digitizing our lives. It will come back to haunt us. Not IF, but WHEN our records are exposed to anyone with the time, talent and inclination to use their 21st Century skills for unscrupulous gain or malicious intent. It happens every day!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You block this sender, and any other, that sends you such evil emails. You can also do this on your blog of course, there is a blacklist function, which I have used two times. Once when someone said I ran a pedophile ring. Honestly don’t waste your good brain giving these morons a moments thought. Block em, Black List em, be done with em. Some people are destined to create, and some are destined to be spam. 😉 😉

    Liked by 2 people

      • Good question. Is that patient prone to lying? Was that patient ticked off enough to leave that review? Or did maybe that patient tell a relative about some displeasure, and that relative posted the review?

        I suppose it’s marginally better if a patient or some relative posted that. The idea of some company garnering patient information and then using that information for such a purpose is very upsetting.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Once or twice I have seen those review sites when I’ve been searching for a new M.D’s phone number, or a number I’ve misplaced. I’ll be sure to let other nurses know about this so we can do our part in teaching patients that review sites are not valuable tools. They’re deceptive sites only created to make money and scare people.

    Reminds me of something a little similar.

    Got my third call from someone saying I’m about to be subpoenaed for tax evasion and that I need to call them immediately. Third call in one month.

    On the count of three let’s all hit the delete button!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: The View From Here | Behind the White Coat

  9. Since I am unfortunately not feeling sharp enough of wit this evening to comment on the very reasonable and important questions you raise in the followup to this post, I’m going to restrict myself to saying:

    I really dig your train photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Some people are just ridiculuous and if they had a bad day or spilled their coffee in their car that day, they will write someone a 1 star review. Sometimes on yelp when I see that, I click on the person’s account, and 90% of their reviews are ALWAYS negative, they just are never happy!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hmm….. I’m convinced that certain “customers/clients/patients” are moles sent by competitors. I’d counter this barrage by setting up several email accounts and stuffing a bunch of fake positive reviews so that the company wouldn’t be able to sell anything and could move on.

    Liked by 1 person

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