Increasingly, medical society meetings are faced with online attacks from fraudsters seeking information about their attendees, or even gaining access to their email accounts.
A “fraud alert” posted on the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) website in late September warned members to beware of emails from con artists. Many involve phishing scams offering attendee lists to members planning to attend this month’s science convention in Baltimore.
âIf you receive an email solicitation that offers an email meeting list for pre-attendees or attendees,â the alert states, âdon’t respond and delete it immediately. a phishing scam and tries to get information and access your email portal. “
These types of emails are a way for crooks to target medical meetings, which are increasingly held in person following a pandemic-induced moratorium. These attacks are not new, but are more aggressive, according to ASRM.
âThis is another battleground for cyber warfare,â said Paul Jordan, who heads IT for the company. “They’re not going to go away. It’s an ever-changing target.”
ASRM has seen an increased volume of scams this year, said Jordan and Sean Tipton, the organization’s advocacy, policy and development manager. Tipton attributed the increase to the roughly 18-month hiatus between seasons of in-person meetings, speculating that many crooks are trying to make up for the resulting loss of income.
Those registered for the meeting are curious about who else will be there, he noted, which makes the attendee lists valuable. But such scams usually involve bragging lists they don’t actually have, Jordan and Tipton said. Although associations such as ASRM maintain participant lists for planning purposes, they do not generally sell or share them.
Other scammers have adopted different tactics.
“Look before you book your hotel,” read the headline of a recent email from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) to members planning to attend their next scientific meeting in Boston. According to CAPE, the crooks tried to trick members into making non-existent hotel reservations by email, among other methods.
âA number of scam registration and housing websites masquerading as ACEP continue to emerge each year. Some scam sites may email you directly or pay to appear in Google search results so that you you would register or book your hotel with them. âACEP said in her email.
The crooks also set up fake meeting websites, which can show up in Google searches, in part because Google accepts their earnings to advertise the bogus sites, Jordan noted.
Scammers often trick people into changing a letter (especially in the area of ââthe association’s website) and stealing graphics of actual associations for use in emails, Jordan and others said.
Email is not a new scam tactic when it comes to medical meetings, said Tipton, believing that scammers have been targeting medical meetings for at least a decade.
Scammers have taken advantage of email and charity subscriptions to target healthcare workers in other areas as well. The American Medical Association (AMA) sent a “safety alert” to members in January, noting that the crooks were posing as current AMA president Susan Bailey, MD, and former president Patrice Harris, MD, in messages to foreign suppliers, requesting their applications for jobs in the health care industry in the United States The AMA has reported the emails to the FBI, according to its alert.
Scientist and author Adam Ruben, PhD, cited other commonalities of fraudulent email – including excessive flattery, exaggeration of the importance of the conference, and the urgent requirement for an answer without explanation – in a Science chronicle on his experience solicited to present “predatory lectures”.
Company executives typically blog and social media posts, or email members, warning them about these scams. ASRM is also asking Google to remove ads for bogus sites, Jordan said. Google obliges, but the ads tend to âgo backâ later.
CAPE encourages members to look for the logo of the official hotel reservation provider when booking hotel rooms, by pasting this logo into its email disclaimer. ASRM uses the same website domain for its meeting every year, Jordan noted, and reminds members to only trust this URL.
âWe try to educate our members and participants so they know it’s out there,â Tipton said. But there isn’t much else they can do to stop crooks from attacking members, especially those who are well-known enough that their names and contact details are available online.
âPeople are upset if they get ripped off, but there’s not much we can do for them,â he added.
âI don’t think this will ever end,â Jordan lamented.
“It’s not the kind of thing that individual organizations that hold meetings are going to be able to tackle. I think it’s a much bigger problem than that; it’s really hard to stay ahead of the curve. these people, âTipton noted. “Individual participants must be attentive.”
CAPE and Meeting Professionals International, which runs a medical and healthcare community, did not return requests for comment.
Last updated on October 14, 2021