With the advent of the CAN SPAM act, many businesses have seen a decrease of email spam; however, fax and phone spam has increased.
To circumvent mail fraud and CAN SPAM laws, unscrupulous vendors resort to misrepresentation by fax or phone.
Some examples of misrepresentation include:
- claiming employment by a utility company when in fact the caller's business has merely contracted with a utility company on a commission basis
- insinuating official status with an official looking seal and/or words including:
- you are not in compliance
- FINAL NOTICE
- FINAL COMPLAINCE NOTICE
- beginning the phone conversation sternly asking for the person in charge of:
- any government agency + the word compliance, safety or training
- any government agency + quoting regulations
- Before answering any question, including who is in charge of anything, ask for the name of the company the person works for and how to spell it. If they respond with the name of a utility company or government agency, persist by asking if they are actually employed by the company/agency or if their company is contracted to the company/agency.
- Caller: Hello Ms. Business Owner. This is Joe Schmoe from the ABC Utility Company. How are you today, Ms. Business Owner?
- Expected response: Fine, thank you.
- Alternate response (turn the phone call around by you asking the questions): I'm sorry, what was the name of your company again?
- Caller: ABC Utility Company
- Response: How do you spell that please?
- Caller spells it.
- Response: Do you actually work for ABC Utility Company or do you just represent them?
- Caller may stammer or hang up. If the caller persists:
- Response: The reason I ask is because I get so many fraudulent phone calls from people claiming to work for companies/agencies when in fact they are only contracted on a commission basis. Are you actually an employee of ABC Utility Company?
- Caller usually reveals true relationship at this point or may hang up.
- Response: I'd like to give you my undivided attention to see what you have to offer but I'm right in the middle of [something]. Give me your name and phone number and I'll call you back. [Note: My experience has indicated that company employees happily give you a toll free number to call back at your convenience.]
- Caller may respond with something like they can't do that or hang up.
- Ask for their company website. While engaging the caller, research them using the Internet.
- Keep a link to the BBB in your browser favorites and look up the company while you are on the phone or ask them to hold while you do this.
- Excuse yourself and place the caller on hold while you call the company/agency from another line or a cell phone to confirm the caller's identity.
- A person contacted my elderly mother misrepresenting herself as a representative of the Social Security Administration sent to go over her medicare plan. My mother wisely deferred the person to me. A phone call to the Social Security Administration revealed this person did not work for the Social Security Administration and the company she represented had no connection with them whatsover. The company's motive was to sell medicare recipients additonal insurance.
- Before completing a large purchase, I confirmed the legitimacy of both company and salesperson by leaving another person to entertain the salesperson while I returned to the office and:
- looked up the company website
- matched the information on the bill of sale to the website
- matched the website and bill of sale information to the phone book
- researched the company at BBB online where they had an A+ rating
- called the corporate office and inquired about the whereabouts of their salesperson
The idea for this post came after pulling another fax from the machine warning of non-compliance of a regulation for which we are in compliance. The sender, no doubt, has found that fooling a percentage of recipients proves profitable and those not fooled are of no consequence.
Donning my strongest glasses to read the fine print at the bottom of the fax disclosed that the sender is not a government agency nor does it represent one. The fine print minimally complies with the law while appearing nearly illegible.
I cannot speak for the quality of the service this sender provides but the service area is legitimate, just one we do not need. Had we not already fulfilled this need, I would have sought compliance elsewhere simply because I do not respond to attempts to sell products by deception.
Adopting a pre-emptive attitude toward callers does not require impoliteness but do not let official sounding calls or faxes intimidate you into revealing information about you or your company until you have proof of the caller/sender's legitimacy. A stern, authoritative, quick-talker may be more a sign of sales training than official business.
Treat phone calls and faxes with the same intelligent wariness you apply to email solicitaton.
Before you comply, ask and verify.