Beginning in October, 2011, MRA member EFG Inc. (also known as European Fieldwork Group or EFG Research) received notification that it has been identified as the facilitator of an automated telephone survey that concludes with an offer of a “free cruise” upon payment of $59 for “port fees” and the selling of “up-charges” for a Caribbean Cruise Line trip to the Bahamas. Many online complaints exist for this cruise line and its marketing tactics.
While the actual source of this survey is unclear, EFG Inc. has no involvement in this sugging (selling under the guise of research) survey other than to be wrongly identified and impersonated as its sponsor. Every survey research business is a potential target for similar scams. MRA’s Code of Marketing Research Standards prohibits sugging in any form as it diminishes legitimate research.
EFG Inc. has filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other authorities and has posted a notification on its website but continues to receive complaints from respondent victims. Authorities view this wide but shallow fraud as too small – at $59 per incident – to thus far prioritize a criminal response. MRA is working with EFG to end this practice through the banking and cruise industries as well as direct legal action.
MRA members should report fraudulent survey research activity to MRA by calling 202.800.2545 as well as follow these guidelines:
- Inform respondent witnesses or victims of research fraud to:
- Document all facts associated with the scam, including caller ID or any other identifying information, process methodologies, time and date of the contact, any names provided by the interviewer or any other facts and circumstances which might be relevant.
- Review the website of the alleged sponsor if available to record contact information.
- File all appropriate complaints with the:
- Respondent victims of research fraud also should contact their credit card company to block fraudulent transactions.
- Research providers who are victims of sugging also should take these additional steps:
- Provide conspicuous notice and a detailed summary of the issue on all company websites.
- Designate an employee who is available to respond to complaints and manage the issue.
- Actively notify all company employees and counsel of the scam and train employees how to respond to inquiries regarding the fraud.