Businesses and not-for-profit organisations need to remain vigilant over unscrupulous directory scams and unsubstantiated claims of confirmed advertisements. Common techniques include fake directory listings or being solicited for advertising that was not requested.
Often these scammers will make contact by stating that they are confirming a paid advertisement or listing by claiming that they are following up on a discussion held several months ago. As part of this conversation they will attempt to send a proof of the advertisement claiming that it is ready for publication.
If the name of the publication or the notion of previous conversations is unfamiliar then you should treat the call with suspicion. For example, I had one instance where a caller claimed to have spoken to me in March, as well as last year, despite me not being a part of the organisation at the time. When I queried this version of events the caller promptly hung up the phone!
In some instances an advertising proof or a copy of the supposed publication will be sent. It is not uncommon for either the proof or publication to contain mistakes or be presented in a format that is inconsistent with the organisation’s advertising policies. If you did not request the advertisement then there is no obligation to pay the invoice or other requests for payments.
Businesses and organisations need clear policies or guidelines that identify the positions and people that are authorised to make decisions in regard to advertising. This is particularly important for not-for-profit community organisations where scam organisations could target volunteers who are unsure of the organisation’s advertising commitments.
Clear guidelines make it easier for volunteers to manage these calls and to refer such callers onto the appropriate person. Some of these callers can be intimidating and clear guidelines will assist in managing these calls and ensure that a commitment is not inadvertently made.
Unfortunately the unscrupulous tactics from these scammers tarnish the industry for legitimate directories and publications. If you are considering advertising, it is always worthwhile receiving circulation figures and a clear understanding of the publication’s target market to ensure it is relevant to the promotion of your business or organisation.
If you are the target of one of these scams then you can report the details at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) ScamWatch website at www.scamwatch.gov.au. Fortunately, the ACCC has had recent successes in pursuing these scams and further information is available from the ACCC website.