2 Alerts: Beware of online news scams and concierge medical review sites

You already know to be on the lookout for fake reviews when you’re searching products and services on the web. But beware of these particular news sites too…

By Michael Tetreault, Editor-In-Chief

APRIL 15, 2013 — There is a trend on the web right now that for-profit companies and, sometimes, scam-sters are setting up fake information and news web sites for the purpose of collecting your personal information. Let me tell you how this plays out specifically … You go to Google or Bing and type in a search term looking for information on a particular topic. Next, what pops up is what looks and feels like a news web site. Usually what happens next is that there are links inside the text or graphics on the site that encourage you to click and take you to a different business or related web site entirely. There, these sites try to sell you a product or service or potentially try to persuade you to give them your contact information (name, email, telephone, etc.).

So, what can you do?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants you to know that when you are on the web and you see a news site touting a great product or service — then potentially linking to another site to either collect personal information from you or sell you something – be careful and be very, very wary. (Source:

The FTC helps consumers recognize and avoid deceptive claims made by fake news sites.  To learn more, see the consumer alert Fake News Sites Promote Bogus Benefits, and the video Free Trial Offers, which explains how free trials are often used to market other products.

Beware of Fake Consumer Review Sites

The second area of which we want you to be aware is online news and online review sites. As concierge medicine becomes more mainstream, you are going to see more and more of these sites appear. This will include categories in the area of direct pay medicine, cash-only medicine and concierge medical care. Categorical Review sites will treat these terms like specialties, despite what your term preference is. The fact is, not every review can be trusted — some reviews will be downright fake. Recently, one retailer was exposed for offering money for good reviews on his merchandise. He was offering 100% rebates to any customer who subsequently left a 5-star review on his site. This is evident on, too, where you’ll find a number of advertised “jobs” looking to pay people to write fake positive reviews for retailers.

So, what can you do?

How can you tell the scam reviews from the real ones? There’s no sure way, but there are a few things you can look for:

  • Products or services that have a lot of reviews are far more trustworthy. There is always more safety in numbers.
  • Reviews that are completely one-sided — either glowingly good or glaringly bad — should be taken with a grain of salt. The best reviews examine all sides of the product or service.
  • Sometimes, consider the source: For example, Clark Howard, a consumer advocate, and nationally radio talk show host, tends to dismiss hotel reviews from those who live in New York City or London, as they are so accustomed to sub-par housing, any hotel where the paint isn’t peeling off there will get a great review.

In the end, use your best judgment when looking over patient and consumer opinions and reviews. Look for lots of reviews and check out several review sites before deciding, not just one. If you have any questions about a particular web site that you’ve run across, let us know. We will check into it and potenetially inform others. The Editors at Concierge Medicine Today are trusted journalists and healthcare professionals that have been covering this field for years. We’re happy to help in any way we can. After all, we believe concierge medicine (and direct primary care) has a story to tell. We believe it should be told well and with integrity.

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