Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Black Hat Marketing

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Black Hat Marketing

Article excerpt

In an increasingly competitive landscape, treatment centers might find it hard to compete with those who are gaming the system with deceptive, "black hat" marketing tactics. Marketers might overstate the center's service capabilities, for example, or pressure the potential patient into an admission without clinical rationale. The honest operators feel like they are at a competitive disadvantage right out of the gate.

More than 9% of overall BHE Ethics Survey respondents report that another entity has attempted to use their organization's name, phone number or identity to market to new patients. When the responses are filtered to include executives only, 24.1% report their organizations were victims of marketing identity theft.

And even the most established treatment center organization can be the target of sneaky maneuvers.

In November 2016, Ethan Loomis, the website and social media manager for Rosecrance Health Network was alerted by a staff member that one of the organization's phone numbers listed online by Google Maps had been altered. It was a concern because so many potential patients look for treatment options online. Loomis soon discovered that the correct number for Rosecrance had been deleted and swapped out for a call center that was headhunting for patients.

When Loomis dialed the posted phone number and asked the call center agent about the issue, the agent dodged the question entirely. Loomis wondered how the slippery switch even happened in the first place.

"I couldn't get an answer, so I dug deeper and found Google will give you a history of the phone numbers," Loomis tells BHE. "There was a lot of activity at end of October, and I saw the number had been switched for other numbers all on the same day, and they all led back to that call center, which owns many numbers."

Google has some protections in place and might have called to verify the swapped out number like a secret shopper, Loomis says. But since the call center was touting addiction services--even if it wasn't using the Rosecrance name specifically--a Google agent likely wouldn't have caught the discrepancy.

Loomis was able to log into Google My Business to suggest an edit of the listed phone number and replace it with the correct number that truly rang at the Rosecrance center. …

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