Tuesday 21 August 2007

Buyer Beware: Mail, Phone, Fax & more ...

As a business owner, it never ceases to amaze me the cunning ways that people who phone, send a piece of snail mail, email, or fax will try and "extract" dollars from us.

The word "extract" is used for a reason.

We provide products and services for which we get paid. Our clients see the value in those products and services. If they did not, then we wouldn't have business relationships spanning more than a decade in some cases.

As an example, we receive envelops from a company here in Canada that are setup in such a way that if our Accounts Payable people didn't realize that we didn't deal with them, we would be paying them for a service we never contracted them for in the first place.

There are, of course, the huge volume of information soliciting emails that we get as well. Some masquerade as suppliers, others as "clients".

Then, there is the phone call that we just received for a survey. The person mentioned that they were calling on behalf of our banks. When grilled for the bank we deal with they actually named it which means either they are working with the bank, or they have some sort of source for the information. Can we afford to answer any questions over the phone with someone we cannot see in person? No.

There is no longer any trust for anyone calling unless they can provide very specific details about us and our accounts. Even then, I will ask the person for a phone number and an extension number that can be used to reach them, and then call them back! If they cannot provide a line into the bank we deal with, then the next call is to the R.C.M.P.

It has gotten to the point where we are very cautious with out of Province numbers on our call display, or even in Province numbers. With Call Display spoofing being a reality, we really need to be careful.

Never answer the, "May I speak to the business owner/manager/I.T. person/person who manages the toners/etc/etc/etc" with a, "Sure! You can speak with John Owner, just a minute!" :D

And, if they do ask for John Owner by name, always come back with, "What is it regarding please?" If their answer is vague or circuitous, then ask questions to get a specific answer. Nine times out of ten they are trying to sell something or other.

If it smells fishy, it more than likely is fishy. If it sounds too good to be true, then it is.

Never, ever volunteer information.

Always take a polite but firm stance by taking control of the conversation immediately. Protect your business, or your employer's business.

And, when it comes the phone soliciting, take the person's first name and initial, employee or badge number, who they represent - if they will volunteer the information - and ask to be removed from the call list. They are then bound by law to remove the name and phone number they just called.

In Canada, we have PhoneBusters to call if we have received some sort of fraudulent offer via phone or email.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

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