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Jacqueline Drew: Foiling fraudulent marketers

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

By Jacqueline Drew, founder of Start Marketing in Calgary
(Listen to the original audio)

It is sobering to learn of the enormity of the profits that fraudulent telemarketing firms earn - and just how legitimate they can appear.

You may recall a breaking story last month of a telemarketing business in Montreal where 130 employees were arrested. There they were making millions tricking other businesses into buying things, from office supplies to directory listing, to even first aid kits!

The other part of the problem is that these fraudulent marketers make all sales calls seem suspect, which makes it harder for legitimate businesses. So having done some research into the area, I thought I'd share some insights to help your business.

Fraudsters prey on your uncertainty, countering it with their apparent certainty. They'll call and say you or a previous staff member ordered something a few weeks ago or even months ago, and catch you off guard. You'll be polite and think, hmmm, maybe I did ... you sort of accept that you're obligated.

So how can you stop it?

Ask them to fax a copy of the order with your employee's actual signature. And ensure your staff doesn't accept shipments unless there is a signed verification.

Second, fraudsters often say quality control people will be calling and verifying shipping details, at which time they'll say the call may be recorded for quality control purposes. But what they do is they use that recording as a chance to verifty the order and get you or your staff on tape saying "yes" to the order - even if you are just saying "yes" to the address. Then if you later deny ordering it, they'll use that as evidence of a confirmed order to upper managers, who generally give in when the recording is played back.

My advice: Never agree to be recorded on a phone call unless you are the one who placed the call and it's to a company with whom you're very familiar.

Finally, if you're not sure you ordered it, don't give in and pay.

If they say "you'll have to pay a restocking fee," "You've already been listed, so you're committed to paying a minimum charge to cover printing costs," or "you've ordered this and we'll sue you or ruin your credit rating if you don't pay," don't give in. Tell them you're going to report them to the Competition Bureau for telemarketing fraud - and then get on the phone and do it.

- Jacqueline Drew

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