How Physicians Can Protect Themselves Against Social Media Fraud

Social media experts say that misrepresentation and identity theft among health and medical professionals can easily be created in social media websites.

This is especially true since popular social networking sites Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook are now commonplace sites and anyone can get post anything they want and usually get away with it. Some doctors are victims of their health blog contents being copied without their permission and posted elsewhere.

Some of these identity thieves even use the names of popular medical doctors and respond to questions being asked by readers.

In fact, Gartner Inc., a research firm, conducted a survey which showed that by the year 2014, fifteen percent of reviews posted in social media will be fake.

According to Brent Franson, vice president, competitors can even post fake reviews by their rival physicians. is a management company which serves physicians, businesses and consumers. Apparently, this kind of fraud exists even among professionals.


Social media experts explain how doctors, and professionals in general, can protect themselves against online identity theft. (Image: Jack Teagle (CC) via Flickr)

Social media experts explain how doctors, and professionals in general, can protect themselves against online identity theft. (Image: Jack Teagle (CC) via Flickr)

In relation, according to a study by Harris Interactive, 85 percent of consumers actually research what they buy online before pursuing the acquisition. Furthermore, 61 percent of online users look for health info according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

For now, nobody knows for sure how many doctors have experienced social media deception. Grant Thornton, an accounting firm, on the other hand, found out that this type of fraud among corporate execs are few and far between, but when they do happen, the effects are usually very expensive when it comes to time and money costs.

In addition, the survey also showed that among the 141 executives, only 58 percent said that their firm actually has experts who can classify social media fraud, making them very vulnerable.
Social media experts suggest the following tips to physicians so they can protect their identities in social media, and online in general:

Digital Footprint Monitoring and Management

According to Vartabedian, MD, physicians should manage their digital footprint, which includes their social media profile and other content about them online. Vartabedian is a pediatric gastroenterologist from the Baylor College of Medicine located in Houston. He writes the blog “33 charts,” which talks about social media, health and medicine issues.

That means that when doctors Google themselves; they should see information about themselves that accurately signify reality. As such, doctors should run their own websites, maintain the accuracy of the information and the reviews posted in these sites. Regularly, physicians should also regularly audit themselves through Google searches.

To keep your name from being misrepresented by other organizations or people, when your name pops up on Web addresses, something that you can monitor through Google Alerts and similar apps or through constant self-auditing, you should “claim your name” right away, according to Dr. Vartabedian.

Don’t respond to someone you can’t identify

Dr. Vartebedian says that a doctor is not obliged to commune with a person who remains anonymous to you. That rule holds true especially with regards to the social networking site Twitter. In this site, you can’t control who follows you, unlike in Facebook, wherein you have the chance of rejecting a friend request which seems dubious.

An online user leaves digital footprints, and you can use tools such as Google to identify people that tweeted you or made reviews. If this is not possible then maybe that person is just a scam aimed at getting personal data from you.

Use privacy tools

Scammers have all the personal information they need about doctors in social media sites. As such, doctors should tweak their profiles’ privacy settings to protect is as well as they can. Private information should only be made available to a few people that one trusts. Twitter and Facebook allows for such privacy enhancements.

Author: Neal Alfie Lasta

I enjoy learning and writing about social media and the latest in mobile updates. Don't forget to subscribe and receive our latest posts in your inbox.

Share This Post On