TTY Relay Operators Used to Defraud Businesses


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We have all heard the phrase "buyer beware," but in this high-tech age of computer crimes more and more businesses are learning it is also "seller beware." Businesses across the country are receiving orders for large quantities of merchandise from unknown customers, often using a hearing impaired TTY (Text Telephone Yoke) service and stolen credit card numbers. The buyer typically wants the merchandise shipped to an out-of-state or out-of-country address by the fastest possible method. And, they want to pay by credit card. The merchandise is shipped to the buyer's address and the business finds out later that the credit card number used by the buyer is either fraudulent or stolen. In the end, the business loses money and the merchandise.

If your company receives a call like this, beware! Overseas con artists have discovered the phone company's TTY service and are using it to swindle hundreds of businesses out of thousands of dollars in expensive merchandise. Victims are often e-commerce businesses that have a Web site and ship products based upon telephone or Internet orders.

The purpose of this fraud is to convince businesses that legitimate purchases are being made. The goal is to part businesses from their product and money through use of stolen credit card numbers. As in all frauds attempts are made to avoid raising red flags that would indicate fraud. In this case, the scam artist routes the telephone order through a TTY Relay Operator in an attempt to shield the caller's real identity.

Businesses that have fallen victim to scams perpetrated through TTY services have reported their experiences to the BBB. Some factors common to these types of fraud include:

  • a buyer orders multiple quantities of high-end products;
  • shipping destinations are out-of-state or out-of-country;
  • overnight or expedited shipping is requested to what appears to be a residential address, but might also be misrepresented as a business address; and/or
  • the initial credit card number is declined by the bank and the customer offers an alternative number.
  • the caller does not question the purchase price and makes no effort to negotiate a deal.

Businesses should always exercise due diligence to ensure that an order is legitimate or that a buyer actually possesses the credit card he or she is using. The Better Business Bureau suggests businesses take the following steps to protect themselves:

  • If the customer is using a TTY 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.
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