A Montreal telemarketing firm facing charges of fraud has launched a counter-attack against its detractors by posting online taped conversations with customers that complained against the firm. Express Transaction Services Inc. (ETS) claims the recordings prove its transactions with these individuals were legitimate.
On Tuesday, ETS responded to a story about charges against it, first reported by the CBC, by posting a statement and a link on the site’s comments section. The link led to a site that contained what ETS claims to be transcripts and taped recordings of transactions with four customers who have complained against them. When played, the recordings appeared to show that the people were aware they were purchasing supplies from ETS.
ETS faces several charges under the Federal Competition Act and Criminal Code following police raids at its Montreal office in 2007. It’s claimed the company made more than $170 million between 2001 and 2007 and had allegedly defrauded thousands of victims in which businesses were made to pay for products they never ordered.
Some people identified in the recordings, however, questioned the legitimacy of the tapes, saying the recordings were altered.
“The recording is not accurate. It was definitely doctored,” said Teka Cook, an office manager at the Royal Oak Pet Clinic in Victoria, B.C. said in an interview with ITBusiness.ca. “It was not the original conversation I had with them.”
Greg Bond, co-owner of School Bus Surf Shop, a Midland, Ont. skateboard and clothing store, said the recording featuring his voice was “fake.” The recording depicts a conversation between Bond and an ETS sales person. Bond said the voice in the recording was his but the conversation transpired in a different manner.
“I knew it was totally fake. Just the way my one word answers were, it seemed like they were inserted to make it sound like I did purchase these things,” Bond said in an interview with CBC News.
The material posted by ETS did not record the four individuals actually ordering products. Instead, the recordings had the individuals responding to questions such as confirmation of their addresses and orders. ITBusiness called ETS several times yesterday but did not receive any return calls.
The company’s post on the ITBusiness comments sections read:
The Laws in Canada still state “You are innocent until proven guilty” and our judicial system has the right to make its decision after hearing all the facts.
Lack of government action
Cook of Royal Oak Pet Clinic said she has grown very disappointed over the lack of action on the government’s end.
“The government has not done much for me. I don’t have a whole lot of faith in them,” she said.
She said her troubles began three years ago when she answered a phone call from by someone who asked for the clinic’s address. A week later Royal Oak Clinic started receiving unwanted office supplies and was later invoiced for more than $300.
“When I refused to pay them, I started getting harassing phone calls. As many as six times a day,” Cook said.
In 2007 ETS was raided by the police. Last fall, the company was charged with with one count of fraud and 24 counts of deceptive telemarketing and misleading representations under the Federal Competition Act.
Although Éric Chenail, an ETS manager charged in Sept. 2011, said his company will be closing by the end of this month due to bad publicity, there have been reports that the company continues to make calls to businesses.
The harassing phone calls to Cook have stopped but the pet clinic manager remains worried.
“The harassing phone calls have stopped for now but now I am being attacked online,” she said. “It’s like we have opened up a can of worms.”
How to avoid becoming a telemarketing fraud victim
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is involved in a national task force called the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre. The centre was established to combat telemarketing fraud.
Here are some tips from the RCMP on how not to fall for telemarketing schemes:
- Do not believe that everyone calling with an exciting promotion or investment opportunity is trustworthy, especially if you do not know the caller or their company.
- Do not invest or purchase a product or service without carefully checking out the investment, product, service, and the company.
- Request for further documentation from the caller so you can verify the validity of the company.
- Do not be fooled by the promise of a valuable prize in return for a low cost purchase.
- Do not be pressured to send money to take advantage of a “special offer or deal” or to claim a “prize.”
- Do not disclose information about your finances, bank accounts or credit cards (not even the credit card expiry date).
If you suspect that a fraudulent scheme is going down, contact the anti-fraud centre at 1-888-495-8501 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact the Competition Bureau of Industry Canada, at 1-800-348-5358. Their e-mail address is email@example.com.