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Imagine what you’d say – or write – about your health to a group of strangers. Or a friend. Or, say, your doctor. Probably different, right?

According to a settlement just announced by the FTC, a company called Practice Fusion published comments from many people who likely thought they were communicating directly with their doctor.  Numerous people wrote about things like prescriptions. Facelifts. Depression. Some people also included with this information their full name, phone number, and other stuff you don't usually share with the world. But then those seemingly private messages went public.

How did that happen? According to the FTC, Practice Fusion wanted to expand its electronic records and online patient portal business to an online healthcare provider directory, complete with reviews. So they started emailing surveys to patients after doctor visits.

Patients responded. (By the way, that pre-checked “Keep this Review Anonymous” box? It didn’t anonymize what people wrote in the text box. It just meant that, instead of being posted under “Jennifer,” my review would have been posted under “Anonymous.”) For a year, the comments were not published, so there were no clues that private information was about to be public – until, suddenly, the company’s new site went live with more than 600,000 reviews.

The settlement in today’s case says, among other things, that Practice Fusion has to clearly tell people their information will be made public – before they make it public – and get the person’s OK. And they can’t misrepresent how they use, keep and protect consumer information.

So, what’s a person to do? Before you post a review, comment on a blog, fill out an online form, or send an email, stop. Ask yourself:

  • Do I really want to share personal information?
  • Where is it going?
  • Who will see it?
  • If I’m wrong about who will see it, am I OK with every person in the world connected to the internet seeing what I wrote?

Less is probably more. And if you feel misled about how your information is shared with the public, let the FTC know.


I received what I believe to be a bogus phone number 630-401-8534. Saying they are IRS & I owe back taxes. They even had the wrong name but correct address & phone number. Please check into this matter. Thank you so much!!

I just called 612-284-5649 - They called me saying they are with The Legal Service Department, I asked what their company name was - what their Agency Number was and what their attorney number was. Dan, who answered the phone, said they were not a collection agency or an attorney that they were a mediator and none of the above was required of them. HMMMMMMMM

I have had the same male voice call both my home phone and cell looking for various people I don't know saying they owe money, have papers to be served against them, etc. and that they need to respond within 24 hours. The 1st time I called back, worried the person wouldn't get the message but they didn't seem concerned. These calls have happened over the past year or two. Don't know what the scam is--or if it is. Annoying though.

Just tell them that you don't know who they are talking about and ask them to remove your phone #. You don't owe them anything more than that. It's not up to you to make sure they have the correct information. If they keep calling you after you've told them they have the wrong # then please file a complaint with the FTC.

I had gotten a call from a litigator about a debit and wanted to settle with me before it was sent to garnishment. The company I received the call from has several numbers the first one was (747)254-1199 and (760)537-4651 and when they emailed me a docusign document to set up payments. This had two different companies on it with an address. I cannot find the company names or the address online at all. I want to know if this is a scam or not. Please Help!!!!!

If you get documents about a debt, read them carefully. A debt collector must send you a written notice, called a validation notice. The notice must say:

  • how much money you owe 
  • the name of the person or business you owe
  • what to do if you think you don't owe the debt

This FTC article tells more about your rights when you deal with debt collectors. It lists some things a debt collector must do, and things he can't legally do.

A debt collector must tell you his name and the company name, address and telephone number. If someone says he's a debt collector but he won't give you a validation notice or contact information, don't pay him. He might be a fake debt collector. Read about how to deal with fake debt collectors.

Ok, I like to sell things I no longer need on Craigslist. Every time I post, 5 minutes later, I get an offer from an out of area number that offers me to send a check hold the item until their "shipper" picks it up. And, Oh, if I could please pay the shipper for them. I know it's a scam but who are these people and how can we stop them? Examples are: 407-349-7850, 601-715-1517, 321-926-9157, 914-984-7036, 360-914-5249 etc.

I keep getting phone calls from 202-558-2387, claiming they are from the IRS. I am told to travel to Washington, DC, because I am being sued for $75,000. If I don't respond I will be put in prison. Anyone else getting these phone calls?

I just received a similar message from the same number

Got call from foreign accented man saying I owed over $5000 in fraudulent taxes from a 6 year period and even after filing taxes with IRS I had a refund of taxes of less then $1500 total scam

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