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Beware of surprise invoices from overseas medical directories, MDs warned

A Halifax pediatrician has issued a warning to fellow physicians after he received a whopping bill from a company based in Portugal because he responded to its request to check his entry in the "American Medical Directory."

Dr. Robin Whyte says he thought nothing of the form he received because he is used to receiving similar requests from the Canadian Medical Directory, which does not charge physicians whose names appear in its database.

After making the requested changes, he signed the form and returned it. A month later he received an invoice for $1,421. When he protested, he was informed that by signing the form he had entered a contract with the company. He then contacted the CMA in order to warn others.

"The small-print paragraph about the payment escaped my attention because it appeared to be in a separate section of the form that was concerned with pictures and additional text material," said Whyte, who has ignored the three invoices he has received.

He also noted that his entry in the directory contained several errors. "If you search the website under my name, you obtain a picture of a female doctor - I'm male - and a location map which puts me in a building about a kilometre from my place of work," he said.

A British medical website, GPonline, says physicians in the United Kingdom are already familiar with the issue. "This is a well-known scam," one physician wrote in an online comment. "First rule - do not pay anything. Second rule, do not waste your time answering them."

A separate Google search also revealed numerous additional complaints from physicians in several countries, including Canada.

Whyte said he wanted to ensure that Canadian physicians are aware of potential problems involving out-of-country medical directories. "In my case, the parent business is not run from America but from Portugal, and it has no association with the American Medical Association," he said. "CMA members may appreciate a warning."

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.