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Dirty Business Practices—Don’t Permit Them! Don’t Be Tricked! Don’t Give In!!
Cases of victims of dirty business practices continue to increase. Business practices are becoming more dishonest and complicated every year, such as sales talks that hide the real intention, forceful and persistent sales pitches, fraudulent selling/buying, and threatening words. The people behind these practices try to take advantage of your weaknesses and use psychology and all kinds of methods to trick consumers into falling into their trap.
If you become a victim of dirty business practices, you may encounter serious problems that can threaten the safety and stability of your everyday life, such as having difficulty in canceling a contract you do not agree with, being charged large cancellation fees, being unable to recover fees you’ve already paid, and having your personal information stolen. It is wise to always be prepared to avoid becoming involved in such practices. That way you’ll be able to think calmly when an emergency arises. If you find yourself in trouble, do not worry about it by yourself or give in. Instead, please consult the Shinjuku Consumer Life Center as soon as possible.
|Inquiries||Shinjuku Consumer Life Center (Shinjuku City Office Annex 2, 3F), Tel: 03-5273-3834, Fax: 03-5273-3110
Note: Inquiries and consultation services are in Japanese.
Beware of These Tricks!
1. If you give out your personal information after receiving a false invoice or inapplicable bill via the Internet
The Internet is a convenient tool used for a wide variety of purposes, such as collecting/exchanging information, finalizing contracts/business, and leisure. Unless you use it wisely, however, you can become involved in unexpected trouble.
Some examples of increasing dirty business practices are as follows:
- You receive an e-mail in your mobile phone for a bill from a website you have never used.
- Your device suddenly connects to an adult website, and when you click on “For those eighteen years of age or older,” a message saying, “Registration Complete” appears, and a page showing an expensive bill appears on your screen that you cannot close or delete.
- An item you purchased via the Internet is not delivered, or is a fake.
- You receive an e-mail that says, “You’ve been selected as a monitor. You will receive a gift!” or “Congratulations! You’ve won a prize!” and you give your name and address for the items to be sent, but never receive it. You wonder how your personal information might be used.
If you receive a bill for inapplicable usage fees, ignore it. If you contact the other party when they say “Legal action will be taken,” you may end up giving them your personal information, and their warnings may escalate as a result.
To spot a fraudulent business website, carefully check to see if the site has clearly posted company information, the payment methods, the contract terms and cancellation procedures. It is dangerous to casually negotiate terms with other parties through the Internet.
Be careful about observing rules on how to use the Internet safely, and thoroughly learn measures and countermeasures for using the Internet, such as security measures.
2. Multilevel Distribution Schemes and “Catch” Sales That Attract Young People
This type of fraudulent business practice often takes advantage of the dreams and expectations of young people, lures them with stories of prosperity and success, and tries to make a profit from them.
A multilevel distribution practice spreading among university students is one in which the victim joins a sales organization, such as futures trading or network business, and invites other new members to join. The profit lies in the new membership fee and in the sales purchases, and a large subscriber fee is offered. However, the merchandise and services often do not sell, and most people lose a lot of money when new members cannot be recruited. Interpersonal relationships are destroyed as well.
“Catch” sales targeting young women represent another serious problem. While the initial sales pitch is to offer free aesthetic salon/hair removal services—or perhaps an introduction to a modeling/acting agency—victims are usually forced to buy expensive cosmetics, facial devices and accessories.
Victims of the abovementioned practices often do not know what to do when faced with pushy tactics, such as being forced to sign a loan if they are unable to pay the price, or having the application for cooling off refused. Always try to determine the true objective of these sales tactics.
3. One expensive contract after another comes after what was supposed to be a free inspection
This sales tactic involves a salesperson who visits a home claiming to offer free inspections of fire extinguishers, water purifiers, drainpipes or other things. After the inspection, however, the salesperson attempts to convince the victim to replace the equipment for a fee, finalize a long-term lease contract, or approve expense sewerage construction. In many cases, the salesperson says, “We are conducting free inspections for a product you purchased from us before,” as if their follow-up services were extremely good.
It is wise not to finalize any such contract on the spot, even if the salesperson make claims to make the consumer feel uneasy, such as, “You must exchange this as soon as possible to be on the safe side,” or “Leaving this alone will lead to something terrible,” or if the salesperson says he/she will give you a special price or is doing work contracted by a public institution. Take your time and discuss matters with your family, friends and other companies you can trust, and then proceed carefully.
4. Talk of a Profit-Making Deal
In this scenario, the victim finalizes a contract to invest in stocks or a business after being assured of a profit. When the money does not come in as promised, however, and the victim tries to contact the other party, they cannot be reached. Many elderly people fall victim to this tactic.
A similar tactic involves a company asking an elderly person to apply for the right to be admitted to a nursing home, and then transferring the right to someone else. At a later date, someone claiming to be the nursing home calls to indicate that a “name lending” violation has occurred, and that a fee must be paid to erase the whole incident. Other cases of dirty business tactics include frauds that try to connect their stories with the Tokyo Olympics, the leakage of personal information by companies, IPS cells or other timely topics.
There have been many cases recently of “theater-style” sales practices in which there are many characters on the team working the fraud. Claiming to be from more than one company, they call the victim and say, “We want to buy your item at a higher price than what you paid.” In this manner, the team tries to gain the consumer’s confidence. Please beware of this type of fraud as well.
To Avoid Becoming a Victim
1. If you have even the slightest suspicion that something isn’t right, have the courage to say “no”
It is vital to remember defensive tactics against salespeople. These include not opening the door or letting people inside your home, refusing clearly in person or over the telephone, not becoming deeply involved in a conversation if you sense something is wrong, and ignoring bills that have no grounds and words that can be taken as threats. Do not be fooled by kind voices, heartwarming ways of talking, or names that sound like official institutions.
2. Do not finalize a contract in a hurry. In particular, do not pay any money or give out your personal information without due consideration.
Read a contract until you thoroughly understand and agree with the content and the contract (cancellation) conditions. In most cases, once you pay a fee, it cannot be recovered. In addition, once you give your personal information away, it is not possible to retrieve it.
3. Before you finalize a contract, listen to your family, friends or another company you can trust
It is essential that to have more than one person review a contract before it is signed, such as for the validity of the content and contract procedures, and contract fees.
4. Be sensitive to and protective of the people around you
It is not unusual for a person to become a victim of a dirty business practice and not even know it, or for a victim to worry alone with no one to talk to. The right advice can prevent damage. In particular, the elderly—who often fall prey to these practices—need the heartwarming protection and understanding of the people in their community. Please keep an eye out for anything that seems unnatural or suspicious.
If you want to cancel a contract, you can use the “cooling-off system.”
“Cooling off” is a system that allows you to unconditionally cancel a contract already made within a legally designated period for a designated form of sales, such as door-to-door/visiting purchase (“push sales”) and telephone sales.
The other party will be notified with a letter (be sure to keep a copy for your own files) sent by special registered mail or simple registered mail. In the case of a credit contract, the credit company and the sales company will be notified simultaneously.
For more information, such as on the type of business transactions that the system* might apply to, the cooling-off period, and what notifications are made to the other party, please ask the Shinjuku Consumer Life Center.
*Cooling off does not apply to purchases made in shops or by mail order.
Please read the leaflet “Watch Out for Consumer Problems!”