Hang up - they're trying to 'sug' you in
Wellington's social media circles were abuzz yesterday with reports of a group contacting people by phone to quiz them on their finances and their views on the pension age.
Speculation was rife whether it was a phishing scam, or a data-mining operation working under the guise of market research, particularly as it has quizzed people on their salaries, mortgages and savings.
But the real rub is that the company, Wellington Business Statistics, doesn't seem to exist at all according to an internet search and a search of the Companies Office.
"If you get a phone survey from ‘Wellington Business Statistics', hang up - it's a front for a finance sales scam - they don't exist," said Danyl Mclauchlan, a popular blogger.
The practice is called "sugging", or selling under the guise of research, and potentially threatens an industry worth $90 million annually, according to the Market Research Society.
The organisation's head, Patricio Pagani, says under the society's rules, market researchers are required to identify themselves, the research, and ask for consent to use respondents' identities - rules that are also followed by fellow industry body the Marketing Association.
By ignoring these rules, Pagani said, rogue operators endangered the trust that researchers had with the public. "One bad case is enough to ruin the thousands of good calls that happen a month that no one talks about," he said.
The Market Research Society has worked with Kiwi firms that strayed into the practice of sugging, but Pagani said the organisation's ability to police the sector was limited by resources and the fact that some of the calls originated from overseas.
He said respondents who wanted to pursue unscrupulous firms had grounds to file a complaint with the Privacy Commission.
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