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ConsumerWatch: 5-Star Doctor Reviews Raise Red Flags

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(AP)

(AP)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — Many consumers now count on review sites to research businesses, restaurants and doctors. But a doctor review site is being accused of posting its own positive comments.

John Swapceinski of RateMDs.com was the first to notice the questionable reviews on the site Medical Justice. “It looked very suspicious to us,” he said. According to Swapceinski there were 86 ratings for 38 distinct doctors.

Vince Sollitto from Yelp.com says they also noticed a similar trend. “Shockingly a large number of 5 star reviews were being posted from the same address,” Sollitto said.

All six IP address were registered to Medical Justice, a membership based organization for doctors.

“If you’re looking for a pizza or a haircut and you get tricked or misled by a fake review, well your hair will grow back,” said Sollitto. “But if you’re going to a doctor you want to make sure that the information that you’re reading about that doctor is as fair and accurate as it can be.”

According to Sollitto, impersonating a false review of your own business is a violation of Federal law.

Yelp and RateMDs.com have removed all content linked to Medical Justice.

In a statement to CBS 5 ConsumerWatch, Medical Justice said: “The questioned reviews are real reviews from real patients – none of whom are Medical Justice employees. Medical Justice has never and will never post anything that would qualify as a ‘fake’ review on any rating site. We are pro real reviews by real patients and we support a system that fosters real dialogue between patients and physicians. We have been working on a system that allows real patients to post real reviews. Our focus is to create a feedback loop that drives quality improvement and fortifies the doctor-patient relationship.”

While Medical Justice would not comment, some published reports contend the posts are part of a Review Builder Program which the company sells to doctors. Reviews are written by patients in the doctor’s office and later posted by Medical Justice. But posting on behalf of someone else is a violation of Yelp’s terms of service and something RateMD’s calls fraud.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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