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Flattery can be costly

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When an AMA member recently received a “very assertive and convincing” call that he had been nominated by a colleague for membership of an international association, he was initially flattered, if more than a little suspicious.

The fact that the call came through on his mobile number, which he believed was private, made him cautious, and when he checked with his colleague, they knew nothing about such a nomination.

The member’s caution was well-founded.

Doctors and medical practices are regular targets of scams and dubious practices, and in this case it involved an organisation offering grades of membership starting at something low like ‘associate’, moving up to higher grades such as ‘silver’ or ‘gold’.

They try to pressure and flatter their targets into purchasing a high level, very expensive membership, which they claim is appropriate to the person’s professional and personal status. They may be promised inducements like a listing, along with a certificate or a book or other publication.

The AMA has warned that the vast majority of these calls originate overseas and do not involve reputable organisations.

AMA legal officer John Alati urged members not to act on such calls.

“You will normally receive nothing for your money,” Mr Alati warned. “At most, you may receive a dubious ‘membership’ to a meaningless, online ‘association’. Further, you will be giving your personal details to an unknown organisation which is unlikely to adhere to Australian privacy laws.”

The doctor who contacted the AMA was curious as to how the organisation had obtained his mobile number as well as the name of his colleague.

“We don’t know for sure,” Mr Alati said. “But web sites which link people are a fairly easy way to get the names of people who know you professionally. Being called on your mobile can lend an air of personal contact and catch you off guard.

“Mobile numbers are not difficult to obtain either. For example, it may be that a mobile app can collect your number and distribute it to unknown destinations.”

If members received such calls, Mr Alati said the AMA’s advice was to “never agree to anything on the spot”.

“Always take time to consider your options, do some research and make a calm, considered decision as to whether the product on offer is worth the price, or indeed anything at all,” he said. “You can also ask the caller where they obtained your information, but don’t expect a straight answer.”

He urged members who have experienced or heard about scams, rip-offs and other dubious business practices to contact the AMA.

Adrian Rollins