SCAM SPREADS: Door Dealers Targeted
© 2006 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Winter 2006
Author: Carla Rautenberg
Door Dealers Targeted
By Carla Rautenberg, Special DAS Correspondent
“The exact scenario you described is exactly what we experienced.”—Glenn Johnson, Town & Country Garage Door, Garland, Texas.
“I had two such phone calls this week … you can add Massachusetts to the list!”—Eileen Loring, Allstate Door, Carver, Mass.
“I hope many dealers will read your article and proceed with caution.”—Virginia Lizzie,
Lizzie’s Garage Doors, Nashua, N.H.
Door & Access Systems (DAS) apparently hit a nerve with “Scam Hits Door Dealers” in our fall issue.
When that story went to press, we hoped the relay scams dogging the door industry might be losing steam. No such luck.
Our readers sent dozens of e-mails into cyberspace and heated up the DAS phone lines to editor Tom Wadsworth. (See Letters to the Editor, page 42.)
It’s Nothing New
We’ve learned that this kind of fraud is so widespread that it has become an encyclopedia entry at Wikipedia.org. It is one of eleven different types of “advance fee fraud,” specifically identified as, “credit card use through IP relay.”
We’ve also learned that MSNBC covered these scams 2-1/2 years ago with the story, “Con artists target phone system for deaf,” by Bob Sullivan, technology correspondent (April 20, 2004).
Sullivan says that the IP relay service for the deaf “also offers that same free access to criminals looking to cheat U.S. merchants. The Internet-based relay system lets con artists call for free, even from far away places like Nigeria.”
“They are really targeting mom and pops, who often wonder, ‘How in the world could they even find me from Nigeria?’” Margaret Mulligan of TermNet Merchant Services told MSNBC. “What a lot of the merchants don’t know is, if you are in a phone book, they can find you.”
Variations on a Theme
One of the latest examples of an IP relay scam was posted on the Web by the Mountain States Better Business Bureau. It involved an order for four high-end flagpoles, each costing over $1,400, allegedly being purchased for a charity home in Ghana.
The scam had all the hallmarks of those experienced by dozens of door dealers, including the request that shipping charges totaling almost $3,700 be advanced via Western Union to a trucking company. Fortunately, the employee handling the order smelled a rat.
In yet another variation, the con does not start with an IP relay call, but originates with an e-mail order for doors to be shipped abroad. The International Door Association Web site reports that several of its members have been hit with this slightly different version of advance fee fraud. More details and links to articles on guarding against scams are available on the IDA Web site (www.doors.org).
When All Else Fails
Although more victims are catching on, some scammers must be making enough cash to make it worth their while. But as DAS readers have told us, forewarned is forearmed. When all else fails, a healthy dose of common sense will protect most business owners from succumbing to these fraudulent schemes.
WHAT TO DO: More Good Ideas
Mountain States BBB suggests the following tips for handling relay calls:
· If the customer is using an IP (Internet Protocol) Relay Operator, ask the customer for his/her full name, address, and telephone number.
· Ask the customer to provide the name of the issuing bank and its toll-free customer service number as printed on the back of all credit cards.
· Ask the customer for the three- or four-digit Card Verification Code that is found near the account number on the back or front of a credit card.
· Tell the buyer that you will check with the bank and call them back. When you do that, keep good notes. Verify all information the buyer gives. If a buyer objects, explain that these procedures are for their protection as well.
· If the caller still objects to providing any of the above information, abandon the conversation and advise that you are not prepared to do business this way.
· If the buyer insists on paying with a certified check, wait until the funds are in your bank account before shipping the merchandise.