Thursday, September 27, 2012

The New Mob: Internet Reputation Destruction

Recently, several 'review' websites have contacted me to offer me the opportunity to clean up my Internet reputation and "save my practice from destruction" as one said.  One site, which is better know for finding local restaurants and places to see when traveling offered me control of my reviews for a mere $3600/month.  I asked why I would need such control and at that price.  Their response, "Because anyone can write anything anytime and you have no control over what is said about you.  Whether or not they are your patient, an enemy, a jealous colleague - you will never know and there is no way to protect your reputation unless you pay us."  I said that I was not interested. 

The next three months I spent more time in the exam room with patients explaining why all of sudden I had bad reviews all over the Internet.  And it was not just the site that had called me to get $3600/month.  The reviews exploded like crazy!  I then started to ask my happy patients to consider writing a review for me if they were so inclined in hopes that their positive comment might off-set the mass of negativity coming at me.  A few did, and for that I am grateful.  Most did not.  Because happy patients don't write reviews unless they are truly directed to do so.  I then saw that my reviews began to get pushed off the first page of that site to a hidden area that a user would have to go look for them.  They would have to scroll down to the bottom of a page, click a link, enter a code, and then get to the hidden reviews.  Few ever did that. Now, any review that gets written there gets quickly pulled to that back door page and my profile sits out on the Internet with not much to show for the history of reviews, requested payments, and patient efforts.

Around July of this year, I started getting calls from a "consumer protection" website that I needed their help to get rid of the bad posts on their site.  They said that they had a special program that could help me save my practice from the reputation problems I am having on the Internet.  I finally got to speak to them in September and and they said that now I had so many posts that it was imperative to pay them to manage those posts.  The salesman said that I could pay $9000 and change to start the program and then pay a monthly fee of $250/month to keep those posts from increasing in number.  I asked why they need so much money and his response was that it is a great deal of work to properly handle these complaints even when they are anonymous bogus postings.  He said that they need to make money and this is how the site works.

After telling them that I would not pay the money, my accounts were once again spammed all across the Internet.  Every review site showed the same posts in the same 'voice' with the same complaints.  My patients began calling, "What are you doing to these patients that all of these posts are appearing?"   I told them I am always happy to see my patients back and help if they are not happy, but no one has been complaining in the manner that is appearing on the Internet.  I explained that my practice is under a reputation attack that is designed to get me to pay money to the sites themselves.  They were horrified.  How can you not be?

My patients tried to contact the complaining parties, but no one would answer nor would they post photos of the problems I had supposedly created.  So now it is clear that the new Internet mafia will be looking for payments to keep doctors "out of trouble" on the Internet.  Very scary, indeed.  One of my patients stated that it is hard to interpret the bad reviews because most people do not have a criminal mind as the people running the review sites clearly do. 

None of it is good for the patients.  It is a hassel for the doctors.  And it continues to further drive up the cost of health care.  Imagine if I did pay all of this extortion money...what would I do for my employees, their families, and my children?  Paying money to snuff fake reviews written by the very websites asking for money is not on the radar screen for me.  If you want to know if I am any good at what I do, you will have to read my website,, call the office at 310.777.88800 or chat with other patients.   You can also call the California Medical Board and find out if my license is in good standing or the American College of Surgeons, the America Society of Plastic Surgeons, or Cedars Sinai Hospital, or any other credible source.  I would not recommend the unfiltered wild west of the Internet.

Caveat emptor,

Jay W. Calvert, MD, FACS