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Protecting Your Firm Against Fraud in Advertising

By Adam Warren, President, The Sentinel Group® and OpenJar Concepts®

Fraud. It’s everywhere…encompassing almost all aspects of our lives. More than ever, society is forced to protect itself from fraudulent perpetrators lurking in the shadows waiting to steal our identity, our money and our trust.

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At the Spring 2015 Mass Torts Made Perfect conference, I spoke to a banquet hall filled with attorneys on the topic of fraud in advertising. This topic is near and dear to our heart at The Sentinel Group, as we have experienced it firsthand. It can wreak havoc on your firm’s time, resources, and bottom line.

Here are some quick stats on fraud in advertising and what your firm can do to identify and protect itself against this nefarious multi-billion dollar industry.

Fraud on the Web

According to the Wall Street Journal, about 36% of all web traffic is considered fake; the by-product of computers hijacked by viruses and programmed to visit sites. In fact, Ad-Fraud detection firm White Ops reported that fraudsters had stolen $6 Billion in the U.S. alone.

The fake traffic comes from botnets (a number of internet computers that, although their owners are unaware of it, have been set up to forward transmissions, including spam or viruses, to other computers on the internet) that click on shady sites which have been created solely to generate false page-view impressions, gathering advertising dollars for site owners in the process.

WSJ also reported that the fraudsters erect sites with phony traffic and collect payments from advertisers through the middlemen who aggregate space across many sites and resell the space for most web publishers. The identity of fraudsters is murky, and they often operate overseas in places such as Eastern Europe, according to security experts.

Fraud in TV Advertising

You might think that there’s no fraud in television advertising. As they say in the Direct Response industry: “But Wait, There’s More!”

Toll Free Traffic Pumping is the latest trick that fraudsters use to separate advertisers from their money. The way it works is when a person makes a toll free call, that call is routed through several carriers before it reaches the end user. The fraudsters live somewhere in the downline of telephone carriers the call is routed through. They get paid for connecting the call to the next telephone carrier, regardless of if there’s an actual person on the line. They may only get a fraction of a penny per connection, but they do it millions of times a day.

Anyone who uses a toll free number may be affected. How will you know if you are a victim of toll free traffic pumping? If your firm or call center answers the phone and experiences:

  1. Dead Air (no one on the line)
  2. Tone or Music on the line

Implications of receiving toll free traffic pumping include:

  1. Lost productivity at call center
  2. Could impact call center metrics
  3. Law firm incurs expenses for unwanted calls

How to protect yourself

If you find that you are experiencing any of the above scenarios, immediately contact the advertising firm you are working with. If you are working directly with media, contact your account executive.

There are, unfortunately, unscrupulous marketers out there. If you are thinking of working with an advertising agency or lesser known media outlet, do your due diligence. Are they listed on the business credit rating firm Dunn & Bradstreet? Do they have a positive BBB rating? Positive word of mouth? Most of the time, if a company comes in and promises you too-good-to-be-true pricing, leads or cases volume, which should be seen as a red flag.

Another key component is to make sure you have a verifiable tracking system in place. At The Sentinel Group, we have spent a great deal of time and money to develop TrafTrack®, our proprietary call tracking and reporting system. This system allows our law firm partners to see every call as it comes in, the duration of the call as well as real time call recordings. If a call issue is noted that seems suspicious, our partners notify us and utilizing TrafTrack® we are able to identify the source of the fraud and at the very least block the number

While fraudulent activity will never go away completely, it is our goal to keep our law firm partners and agency relationships in the know as to what is happening out there and steer them clear of harm’s way.

Please feel free to contact me if you have further questions, and please be sure to peruse my other blogs on various topics of law firm advertising.

Adam Warren is President and Co-Founder of OpenJar Concepts®, Inc. and its mass torts division The Sentinel Group™, a full service, direct response marketing and technology company in Temecula, CA, that offers lead generation campaigns on national TV, radio, print and mobile. He can be reached at  and 951.296.9222 ext. 302.

Check out The Sentinel Group on YouTube.

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