Security dealers, distributors and systems integrators who receive large orders for merchandise over the Internet through relay calls for hearing-impaired people should double-check such orders in light of reports of scams involving this method of communication.

The National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), Irving, Texas, reports that the scam is being used mostly to order large quantities of smoke alarms and smoke detectors with stolen credit card numbers.

“They are targeting our industry,” warned Georgia Calaway, the NBFAA’s director of communication, public relations and marketing.

After alerting its members to the fraud, several more members informed the NBFAA that they had received such fraudulent orders, Calaway reported.

Relay telephone calls are made by operators to businesses on behalf of hearing-impaired people, who contact the operator through the Internet or through a text communication system over telephone wires called TTY (text telephone yoke).

The relay operators cannot report suspicious behavior or change a message. They must transmit exactly what is said, and the calls must be 100 percent confidential.

Persons wishing to defraud companies are contacting the relay operators to deliver orders with stolen credit cards numbers to unsuspecting companies, which may not be aware of the limitations of the service and be less likely to suspect fraud from a service paid for by the government for the hearing-impaired.

To protect themselves, businesses should ensure that the credit card numbers from relay operators are genuine and request the address and telephone number of those persons who placed the order, advises the Internet Fraud Watch of the National Fraud Information Center (NFIC/IFW).

Warning signs of such fraud are overnight shipment to an out-of-state or out-of-country address, no concern about price or attempt to bargain, and use of an alternate credit card number when the first offered is declined, cites the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

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