General Question

La_chica_gomela's avatar

What, if anything, should I do about this creepy message?

Asked by La_chica_gomela (12488 points ) June 9th, 2011

I received this message today [over facebook] from someone I dont think I’ve ever met. I redacted the names for privacy.

“Ok. Super creepy moment from me.

My name is K. and I work for Dr. L. I saw how much my lifelong friend, MP, is soo happy to have you in their life and I thought your name was super familiar :) You are a patient of Dr. L’s, right?

Of course, I would never say anything (for legal reasons and respect reasons) to MP about you being a patient, but I thought it was so cool! What a small world!

Best wishes and happy happiness,
K.
Front Desk – Dr. L
Ps. Feel free to tell MP if YOU want to :)”

This VERY MUCH creeps me out!!! I haven’t had a chance yet to ask MP, my significant other of just a few months, if they do indeed know this person.

At first I didn’t recognize the doctor’s name, but after googling I realize it is a gynecologist I went to once! Probably a year or more ago! UGHHHH! I feel like my privacy has been violated, and I really want to say something to the office manager at the doctor’s office. This is not appropriate!

But on the other hand, I don’t want to be “a bitch” or for MP’s friend to get fired over it (if this person is indeed a friend). I’m really torn.

Advice, suggestions? Of course I plan to talk to MP about it asap.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

66 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

1. Ignore the message
2. Block the sender
3. Talk to MP
4. If anything happens, report the sender to facebook
5. ?????
6. PROFIT!

Plucky's avatar

Before doing anything, I’d talk to MP about it. Then maybe even reply to K ..asking who they are. Depending on their answers ..you may or may not seek legal counselling on the matter.

If you are really creeped out ..block K as well. You don’t need to reply or give a reason.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, don’t let your mind make up a bunch of paranoid stories about this persons intentions.

You know, it IS entirely possible they are being genuinely friendly!

It may feel inapropriate to YOU, but, if they are a very friendly, open, outgoing personality, maybe they just decided to take a chance and reach out.

I have a phone friend that started as a wrong number last year. I call her ’ Not Marilyn.’ lol

We’ve actually had some really fun conversations a few times, ( I know her real name now, and she mine) but, on the occasions I still mis-dial I always say ” Oh, HI NOT Marilyn! ” haha

I dunno…I see your point, but, just a caution that not every freindly person is creepy.

Food for the paranoid mind maybe? ;-)

True, it is a bit unprofessional..but, still…

Bellatrix's avatar

I would talk to MP about it because there could be more going on here than you are aware of (or it may be absolutely nothing other than an overly friendly and inappropriate person). It certainly does seem like a breach of the person’s position though. If I go to the doctor, I don’t really want their staff contacting me in an unsolicited manner. However, apart from following up with your partner, I would probably just ignore and block the person unless you find out there is more to the story and that more is sinister.

TexasDude's avatar

@Coloma maybe, but the problem with this is that it seems as though there might be some medical privacy/HIPAA violations going on here.

Coloma's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard

True. I see that point, absolutely. I just hate to see friendly people called creepy because they have a bolder side than some. :-)

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@Coloma : I have very little doubt that K genuinely works for the doctor and is some sort of acquaintance of MP’s. I find it WAYYYY overstepping the bounds of professionalism for them to have contacted me like that.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

And because of the inappropriate contact, I’d feel way too uncomfortable ever going back to Dr. L, which is unfortunate for her, since she’s a good doctor.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

If you find out they WORKED for the Dr’s office the HIPAA law can take care of that.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@Tropical_Willie : Can you be more specific? (Yes, I clicked the link)

Plucky's avatar

@Coloma A few years ago, I saw a lady’s face on Myspace ..I thought she had one of the most beautiful smiles. We did not know each other ..nor did we have any friends in common. I just wanted her to know that her smile was contagious. She blocked me ..lol. She thought I was some creepy lesbian. So I understand about the “not every friendly person is creepy” statement. At least I don’t think I’m creepy.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It wouldn’t creep me out. People are people. Some of them work in offices. Sure, it’s not HIPAA appropriate but this person isn’t trying to scare you. Just talk to your partner.

Coloma's avatar

@La_chica_gomela

I’m sorry but I think you are way over reacting!
Now you are going to change doctors too?

Really, I say take a deep breath, call the girl back, see what she has to SAY?

Tell her you feel uncomfortable but that you don’t want to hurt her feelings, just something you feel was inappropriate.

This does not have to become the drama of the day.

Your choice. ;-)

Coloma's avatar

@PluckyDog

Right!

I agree, people are people beyond the roles they play and I think it’s sad when people are suspicious all the time. Not your fault.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@La_chica_gomela You are protected by HIPAA from information being released ( ON FACEBOOK ) about you and your relationship with the Dr’s office.

Facebook is an OPEN media !

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Contact the Dr’s office and see if that person works/worked there. Tell the DOCTOR not his staff what happened.

marinelife's avatar

Definitely report this to the doctor’s office. That is so wrong on so many levels.

Block the user.

Do not respond to them in any way.

creative1's avatar

Sounds like if you are in the US that if this person works for this doctor they violate HIPA policy and I would call the doctors office and speak to the doctor and tell them what you received. Print it out and offer to bring it into the office and tell them you want to see this indiviual fired, they are violating your privacy!!!!!!

obvek's avatar

Is there a HIPAA violation in this, because I don’t see it (although I am rusty)? We don’t know that K accessed @La_chica_gomela ‘s medical record (if she did, that would be a violation, I’m sure, since it was outside “treatment, payment, and operations”). Offices are allowed to contact their patients, and it may be that K simply remembers her name/face from front desk interaction. K also isn’t disclosing any health information (including status as a patient) to a third party, although (aha!) she did disclose it without confirming the recipient was @La_chica_gomela and undoubtedly her Facebook profile is not part of the contact info on file at the doctor’s office. Still, K didn’t reveal a name and just said “you.” Setting discomfort aside, I wonder if anyone can parse out how this violates HIPAA?

raven860's avatar

I think you are overstepping with blocking the person or reporting them for this. Its just a message…a friendly one at that too and that person is also a good friend of your significant other (unless s/he is not). Also, its just a message not a facebook add or something. An add can raise concern a message saying hi is nothing. It like getting spam in your mail at best!..and you do not go into panic mode for that.

I would tell your significant other about it and make sure that that individual is indeed a friend of his and someone in good regards with him. I would then either reply a message back or if extremely positive ask for a proper introduction to the person.

I meet people all the time, in the street, at the park, during commute. We say hi or talk about relevant topics. It does not automatically become creepy. Online can be different however the sender already admits he or she feels a bit awkward about it so I think you can be polite even though it comes accros as weird to you.

SuperMouse's avatar

I vote for talking to MP and contacting the doctor as well. Whether it is just an innocent attempt by her to make a new friend or it is as creepy as you (and I) think it is, it is beyond the beyonds and should not have happened.

Coloma's avatar

A friend of mine is dating her veterinarian right now. ( They have been going out for over a year ) He called her aside from treating her dogs and asked her out.

I think she’s really happy about that!

I wish he had a friend, maybe a goose doctor. lol

tan235's avatar

Just ignore the message, pretend you never got it!
go and have a bath and soon you’ll forget about it and because you’ve deleted it it will soon go from your memory!

I delete creepy messages, what’s the point…. lifes to short.

chyna's avatar

This is not a violation of HIPPA. HIPPA is only in violation when disclosing medical information, not disclosing that someone is a patient.

obvek's avatar

@chyna, I’m pretty sure that’s incorrect.

“So you’re a patient at the Cancer Center/Dialysis Center/Wound Care Clinic/AIDS Treatment Center…”

well, wait… you can call the hospital and get a patient name (unless they sign “do not announce”)

like I said… rusty ;-)

creative1's avatar

This would be like me going into the banks system to look up someone and get his/her name and number then give them a call and say hey how you doing I noticed that we have a friend in common would you like to chat. That would have gotten me fired and it should get her fired. You don’t do it no matter what connection you have with a person. There are policies against it that protect proprietary information such as names and numbers which I believe HIPAA covers if I remember correctly: Protected Health Information is individually identifiable health information created, received, transmitted and/or maintained by a covered entity. This includes information relating directly or indirectly to the person’s past, present or future physical or mental health, the provision of care to the person, and the person’s health care bills and payments. This information includes individuals’ demographic information. She went out searching for her in order to make contact.

Call and get her fired!!!! This was wrong on so many levels!

Seaofclouds's avatar

@obvek @chyna and others, actually it could be considered a HIPPA violation. Per HIPPA, doctor’s offices (anyone working at the office) can’t even confirm that a patient is a patient of that office without the patient’s consent. So mentioning that @La_chica_gomela is/was a patient of a specific doctor (and that the person worked for that office) is technically a violation. For example, if your mom (or some other family member) called the office and asked if you were a patient there, the office can not say you are without your permission, just as a hospital couldn’t say you were a patient without your permission (which is why they usually ask if you want to “opt out” (or whatever they call it at that hospital) when you are admitted).

Personally, I’d ask MP if he does indeed know K. If so, I’d ask K why she couldn’t just say “I’m a friend of MPs and wanted to say hi” or whatever instead of bringing up the doctor’s office. I wouldn’t necessarily report it at that time, but I’d be sure to let K know I didn’t appreciate her mentioning anything about who my doctor’s were. If MP didn’t know K, I’d definitely be calling the doctor’s office to let them know that one of their employees was contacting patients through Facebook.

obvek's avatar

@Seaofclouds, that’s true of disclosure to third parties, but I’m pretty sure an office can tell the patient whether they are, in fact, a patient. At least I would hope so.

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t think you should just ignore it without at least speaking to your partner but after reading the comments here and thinking more about it, I think @creative1 is right, this would be a sackable offence in many fields of work and I am sure her boss would not want her to be contacting his patients on Facebook. If nothing else, her boss should know so he can let her know she is out of line.

dabbler's avatar

Of course mention it to MP.
How did she find out that you and MP are going together now?
Maybe MP told K in a casual conversation that has nothing to do with the doctor’s office really.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@obvek It depends on the patient’s privacy requests with the office. The office I work at had specific permissions for patient to give us, such as leaving a voicemail saying we were calling from the doctor’s office. I had many patients that did not want us leaving a message saying where we were calling from. As far as telling the patient that she is a patient, sure, but K has no clue who has access to the OP’s Facebook, so it’s not an appropriate means of communication unless the OP has said they could contact her through Facebook.

sinscriven's avatar

@creative1 : Except there is no proof that front desk girl abused any sort of PHI/PII to get in contact with her. It’s facebook, and facebook likes to shove mutual connections in your face all the time, and this one she just happened to remember from work. I don’t see how it would be any different if it was the janitor of that doctors office that made that message (they are HIPAA exempt -btw).

I think it was extremely unprofessional, but i think screaming HIPAA violation is blowing it out of proportion. I don’t think firing her and slapping a $100—$50,000 fine on her face for just saying hi is a reasonable course of action.

Zaku's avatar

I’d mention it and your feelings to MP, but I don’t think there’s really a big deal except that you’re creeped by it. It’s probably meant as harmless, and mentioning it to the doctor might require him to do some sort of HR action that might not really be necessary.

creative1's avatar

If she was in there last week I could say she remembered but she said this was a gyno she visited a year ago once, it looks like she happened on the name and thats really wrong.

raven860's avatar

PLEASE READ THIS
ALSO READ THE ONE I PREVIOUSLY POSTED

At the end of this “letter” you received, it says Front Desk-Dr. L. Assuming this person is true to their word about it, it implies that he or she works at the front desk and she might have seen your name on the list of who is to call next. Like all the nurses or receptionists do when (you are in the waiting room and call your name publicly aloud in front of other strangers). It could be as simple as her over hearing another nurse calling your name and her realizing hey I think I know this person she is my good friend’s significant other. I highly doubt he or she went all covert-ops on your file and medical records just to send you a facebook message.

Thats is a very practical rational in my opinion.

In my opinion, You should talk to your significant other before doing anything next; especially contacting that person’s employer for a complain. For all you know you might dent the career of you significant other’s best bud for a very harmless reason.

Also if you do choose to pursue this person’s friendliness along a path of rejection then first politely but clearly & firmly say that you found that person’s message inappropriate and you do not want any further contact from them; you can add that if they do want to contact you they should do it through your significant other. If the person persists on contacting you and is obscene about it then you can follow through informing hr, complains, reporting etc to dent his career.

I don’t like the rational of automatically assuming the worst case scenario. Miss-communication and assumptions and living paranoid is not the answer to life.

creative1's avatar

If someone sent me anything like this I would be at that doctors office seeing to it that person didn’t have a job and if nothing was done I would see and attorney, her rights to privacy were violated.

To me when you go to a doctors office you are suppose to feel you have privacy and not be contacted out of the blue by some stranger on the internet

6rant6's avatar

If I were Dr. L, I would want to know about this. I mean, if this person is doing this with your information there is reason to believe she would do it with other people’s. Dr. L should make sure she never does this again.

Ltryptophan's avatar

Definitely tell

BarnacleBill's avatar

Respond that contacting you in this manner is a violation of HIPAA laws, and that you are going to let Dr. X know that she has contacted you in this manner.

bobbinhood's avatar

While mentioning the doctor was unnecessary at best, it does not mean that she perused your file in order to find you. Honestly, the information in your file would not assist in finding you on facebook. If she’s actually MP’s friend and he posts his relationship status, she just has to click your name from his profile to get to yours.

It is neither unusual nor creepy for someone’s friend to want to get to know their significant other and contact them on facebook. It’s likely that she just felt awkward saying, “Hi. I know MP and would like to get to know you, too.” A lot of times people want to establish more connection than that in order not to seem creepy. If she legitimately remembered that she saw you (or your name) at work, that’s not really any different from working in a deli and asking if you shop there. However, if she went searching the files to see if she could make the connection, that’s a bit off.

Personally, I wouldn’t do anything until I had talked to MP. If she is a good friend, hurting her career could also hurt your relationship. Besides, he will be able to judge much better than you whether she’s really out of line. Yes, mentioning the doctor’s office is sketchy, but it might have been done innocently. Let him make the call, and don’t get too worked up in the mean time.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@Seaofclouds: THANK YOU! EXACTLY! I didn’t!

JLeslie's avatar

This to me is a HIPPA violation. When I see a patient out in public I don’t even say hi first, up to them to know me, but I worked in psych. For sure if an office member contacted me on facebook because they ran across my name at a doctors office that is wierd, and I think innappropriate.

Now, if she found you through facebook, because MP has you listed as his SO, then if she decided to contact you as a friendly gesture, she never should have mentioned the doctor, that is for her to know and never say, not even to you.

creative1's avatar

@JLeslie I agree with you totally!!!!!

Haleth's avatar

@creative1 “This would be like me going into the banks system to look up someone and get his/her name and number then give them a call and say hey how you doing I noticed that we have a friend in common would you like to chat.”

That happened once! I’d had a few friendly chats with one of the tellers, and he seemed nice. For some reason, the ATM at that branch kept my card, so I asked about it the next time I went in and the teller was twirling it in his hands when I got there. He tried to add me on facebook later. UGH.

This lady overstepped her professional bounds, and that’s what’s wrong with this scenario. Adding a friend-of-a-friend or a friend-of-SO is pretty normal behavior, especially once you’ve met each other. If she is a close friend of MP, the three of you will probably see each other in person at some point. She could have just waited until then to add you as a friend and not brought up the doctor’s office at all.

Jeruba's avatar

It seems kind of odd to me that you’ve had a chance to contact Fluther before having a chance to contact MP, your SO of several months. Doesn’t MP’s input factor in here in a pretty big way? Let’s see what MP says before we go too far on conjecture.

nikipedia's avatar

This is definitely a HIPAA violation and the girl is either stupid, crazy, or both.

Bellatrix's avatar

There are doctors here, perhaps they can answer would they want to know or not?

Jeruba's avatar

Why are we trying to take care of the feelings of the doctors or the receptionist in this possibly fictitious situation? @La_chica_gomela received a message that creeped her out. What reason have we to think there’s any truth to what the person told her? Let’s wait and see if MP confirms the connection. It seems like she’d have to go one way if yes and another way if no.

chyna's avatar

@La_chica_gomela So what happened? Did you ask MP about this?

Bellatrix's avatar

The reason the doctor’s feelings are important is because if this is a member of their staff, they may be involved in any ethical or legal fallout should there be a breach of confidence. Does the doctor who employs this woman know she is Facebooking their patients? I would guess not and so I am interested whether the medical professionals here would want to be informed?

She says she wouldn’t say anything to MP about her being a patient of this doctor, but feels it is okay to mention it on a public forum. She is therefore aware of her legal and ethical responsibilities but appears to have ignored them to make this post. The poster says she removed the names so one can only assume they were there in the post. A significant breach of confidence in my opinion. I would not want my doctor’s name posted on my Facebook page and especially a specialist’s name which automatically gives information about the person. We now know this person has visited her gyno. Perhaps the reason she visited was very sensitive and she wanted to keep that information to herself.

As to MP, while I think she should speak to him, it really isn’t about that connection. It is about whether this person breached protocol by contacting the doctor’s patients via Facebook. Yes, she may know MP, but really does that justify her contacting her employer’s patients on a social networking site? I think not.

Jeruba's avatar

We have only the message sender’s word for it that she is on staff (and all the rest of it). That’s what I’m asking: why do we believe the message writer? Let’s see if the easy part of the story checks out—i.e., does M.P. know this person or not?

Bellatrix's avatar

I think the original poster would know whether she visited that particular gynaecologist or not and obviously she did and this person knows that. One way or another, there has been a breach of privacy involving that doctor’s surgery.

Jeruba's avatar

I can think of several other possible explanations.

6rant6's avatar

@Jeruba None of which will create a problem if the doctor is informed…

Jeruba's avatar

The person might not even work there. Why involve the doctor without any evidence whatsoever?

I keep wondering why, why, why people just take as gospel any weird thing that people choose to say about themselves and then base their reasoning on that.

In two days the OP has not “had a chance” to contact her SO and ask a simple question. Contacting the doctor ought to be way down on that list of steps.

Bellatrix's avatar

Well if she doesn’t work there, the doctor will say “this person does not work for me” and no harm will be done. If she does work there, then the Dr may have a quite different take on the whole situation.

Why is it so important to involve the SO? What will knowing that he knows this person change in terms of the breach of protocol? If he says, yes, I know this person, will it make the fact that they contacted the OP via Facebook and mentioned the connection to the doctor any less problematic? I don’t think so.

Jeruba's avatar

K. might well work for the doctor. But the message might not really be from K. And now K. is falsely accused and his or her employment jeopardized.

The message writer claims to be a lifelong friend of the SO, who is their point of connection. Isn’t the obvious next step to ask the SO if he or she knows this person?

Bellatrix's avatar

Yes of course. K knows the SO but she doesn’t work for the Dr but has a secret lust for the OP’s SO and wants to let the world know the OP visited a gynaecologist months before for some unknown complaint and she (K) knows it will upset the OP that this information is now out there in the ether and that she will probably confront the SO to find out if he really knows K and what their connection is. SO will see OP as being a jealous shrew and will dump her and K will get to be with SO!

It is all getting too silly.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

The check of FB to see if K is connected with “known” people. Would show that the person is really K.

Bellatrix's avatar

Faints…

Jeruba's avatar

All I’m saying is do a little verification first with the SO with whom our OP is presumably in regular contact. If that’s not possible or not desirable, this becomes a different question.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Whew! Reading all the posts since the last time I logged into Fluther made my head swim!
@Jeruba: To answer your question to me,

“It seems kind of odd to me that you’ve had a chance to contact Fluther before having a chance to contact MP, your SO of several months. Doesn’t MP’s input factor in here in a pretty big way? Let’s see what MP says before we go too far on conjecture.”

Yes, I got on Fluther in the middle of the day instead of calling MP at work over a facebook message. Didn’t and doesn’t seem strange to me at all. Yes, her input does matter, that’s why I ended my question by saying that of course I’ll talk it over with her.

Also, NO, there is nothing fictitious about the situation.

Everyone else wondering, yes, MP confirmed that she went to elementary school with K but they see each other rarely these days, and that K can be pretty impulsive and overly friendly. All things I already suspected.

I still feel like I should probably contact the doctor’s office independently, but I still haven’t. Sigh.

Jeruba's avatar

@La_chica_gomela, the possible fiction I was referring to was the veracity or falsehood of the sender’s message and not anything you said. Your account is not in question. But if the message writer’s story felt creepy to you, that strongly suggests that you had some doubts about it—including that it might not be true, right? Hence “possibly fictitious.”

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@Jeruba: Thanks! :) (Also, I just reread my post; didn’t mean for it to sound so defensive.)

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@La_chica_gomela Thank you very much for the update. When you don’t know the person posting the message and they give personal details about your life it is creepy, especially when the stranger has access to personal information.

Now that you have a bit of background on the person who sent the message, why not just reach out to her and let her know how it made you feel and that you considered notifying the doctor? It can be delivered in a hospitable way, and it might help K understand the importance of confidentiality.

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