Telemarketing Fraud



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Telemarketing operations are defined simply by the principle medium of contact used to perpetrate the fraud. They should not be, but are often confused with legitimate telemarketing operations and call centers which, though potentially annoying, make up a large industry and workforce.

Operations may consist of a single individual, a complex call centre, or a makeshift and portable office facility set up with a bank of phones. If calls have not been preceded with promotional materials but are made from lists of leads or at random, then they shall be deemed as being outbound calls.
If consumers are encouraged or induced to call a number on their own, then the call and operation are deemed to be of an incoming or inbound nature.

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that in excess of 14,000 fraudulent telemarketing businesses currently operate in North America.

As of 2001, criminal telemarketing fraud operations in Canada remain strongly concentrated in three major metropolitan areas: Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Montreal - The greater Montreal area is the location of approximately 5 to 10 large telemarketing operations, plus an unknown number of smaller telemarketing operations. These operations, which use anywhere from a single operator to nearly 30 employees, concentrate on schemes offering foreign lottery chances and prizes or sweepstakes, as well as so-called "recovery rooms."

Toronto - The greater Toronto area has approximately 50 to 60 fraudulent telemarketing operations, some of which can be as large as 40 or 50 employees. These operations are conducting a variety of schemes, including offering advance-fee loans, credit-card "protection," stock swaps; prizes and sweepstakes; and "investment-grade" gemstones.

Vancouver - The lower mainland area of British Columbia including Vancouver, Burnaby, North Vancouver, Richmond, and Surrey has approximately 220 to 250 fraudulent telemarketing operations. These operations, which typically use anywhere from 3 to 35 or 40 employees, concentrate on schemes involving foreign lotteries, investments in so-called "British bonds," credit-card protection, recovery rooms, and fraudulent billing of compromised credit cards.

A number of these operations take extraordinary measures to increase the difficulty of successful investigation and prosecution. These measures include using cell phones (sometimes in conjunction with prepaid "calling cards"), which can be discarded after several weeks of intensive use; using stolen identity cards to open mail drops for receipt of payments that victims mail to them; using multiple mail drops that shuttle victim-related mail through multiple destinations; impersonation of FBI and Customs agents or RCMP officers, to make victims believe that law enforcement is already aware of their losses; contracting with other telemarketing "boiler rooms" to do their work; and laundering of fraud proceeds through foreign bank accounts.

In addition, U.S. and Canadian law enforcement have noted the involvement of organized crime in some of these telemarketing operations, although organized crime does not dominate fraudulent telemarketing as a whole.


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