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June 25, 2007

Confirmation scams

To: Employees
Re: Scams

The Wall Street Journal just called to try and upgrade my subscription.

Recently I've seen the WSJ arriving here, but I never ordered it. Yet, according to the caller, we've got a subscription in my name.

I'm also getting a men's lifestyle magazine that I'd never even heard of.

Most likely these subscriptions will result in a bill, and it may even get paid. The product is arriving, right? Shouldn't it be paid for?

As our company gets larger, it's harder and harder to protect against "order confirmation" scams.

An order confirmation scam usually starts with a phone call to a random employee who is asked to "confirm" something. The caller doesn't ask "Do you want to subscribe to my magazine?" The caller says "I'm calling from Magazine regarding your subscription, and just want to confirm that your address is 1313 Commercial St., etc..."

Your innocent fact confirmation is recorded as an order.

Well, if they're bad guys, why do they call at all? Why not just send the product and the bill, or even just the bill? They do, but those bills are (usually) easier and safer to ignore. The problem is the "pseudo-legit" businesses, or truly legit businesses (like the WSJ) who hire smarmy outside firms to find new customers. The WSJ requires their partners to send in legitimate subscriptions. And if we complain, they'll check the records, and there will be a note that on March 12, the sales person called us, talked to and took an order. And it'll be hard to argue with that.

Magazine subscriptions are usually a cheap annoyance. That's why they're popular for this kind of scam -- it's not worth our time to argue every un-authorized $19.95 subscription.

The office supply scams are the real killers. "Hi, I'm Sue from HighwayRobberyToner.com. I'm calling about your order; it doesn't have your printer model number on it. Can you tell me if that's the HP 5100? Oh, it's the HP 7100? Great. We'll get those cartridges right out to you."

Yep. It sure didn't have our order number on it, because Sue just wrote it up. But now it does, and some employee's name to authorize the purchase. The bolder companies will fax the order to you to review and even sign. Then (actual case here) we're shipped a very cheap toner cartridge at 2-300% of normal cost, with a signed order authorization. (Fortunately our receivables clerk catches most of these scams. But it wastes a lot of time.)

Bottom line: If you're asked to confirm something that you didn't originally order, start by saying that you're not authorized to make a purchase.

"I'm not authorized to make a purchase, but I can confirm that our address is 1313 Commercial St."

If you're at all suspicious about a call (which you should be if you didn't place the order) please send it to the person who most likely placed the order, or to a manager.

Thanks for being on guard for fraud, and for helping to protect me from magazines full of men's fashion tips. (As if I need that!)

Posted by Bob Pritchett at June 25, 2007 10:54 AM

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