WestJet communications vice-president Richard Bartrem has had four such fraudulent calls this week alone to his home. He is asking Canadians to report the calls to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the National Do Not Call registry.
WestJet has worked with Mexican authorities, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, and the company that hosts websites related to the scam in an attempt try to get to the bottom of the problem – but Canadians across the country are still getting the calls.
“We are not going to try and sell you things by cold call telemarketing. So this never has been our way of doing business,” Bartrem said. “The Canadian public is remarkably frustrated and so are we.”
While most people hang up, WestJet staff said in a recent blog post they are listening in and trying to figure out how to make the calls stop – going as far as keeping the telemarketers chatting to stop them from taking calls from other people.
Here’s how the call works: an automated female voice urges the “valued WestJet customer” to press one, which transfers the call to someone confirming that the person is over 30 and a valued credit card holder.
“They transfer you again to someone who simply tries to sell you a vacation package in Mexico. If you inquire as to ‘take me back to the $999 WestJet dollars that I just won,’ they either swear at you, or hang up, or tell you it has nothing to do with them,” Bartrem said.
“WestJet is by far the lion’s share of these phone calls, but other Canadian brands are used as the hook to get you to press one.”
Spoofing makes source hard to trace
This year the calls appear to be coming from local numbers, but they are actually “spoofed,” which means software is used to mask the caller’s real identity by displaying a fake telephone number, said Bartrem.
Bartrem is urging Canadians to report the number, even if it is spoofed, along with information such as the websites related to the call.
“Hopefully it will help us, along with the authorities, to find out who these people are and how to make this stop.”
WestJet has also published the websites of the companies they allege are associated with the calls and are asking people to email those companies to let them know that they find the calls irritating.
Bartrem says he hasn’t heard of any cases of identity or credit card theft arising from the calls, but the RCMP is dealing with a handful of cases of customers trying to get their money back.