Phone scams

Beware fraudulent telemarketers

If you have ever received a telephone call or a postcard announcing that you have won a prize, BEWARE! It could be from a dishonest telemarketer out to get your money. These high pressure sales people may claim you are the winner of a prize and then may lure you into phony investment schemes, may try to sell you expensive "promotional items" or subscriptions to magazines, and may cause you to lose a substantial amount of money.

Unfortunately, fraudulent telemarketers are very hard to track down. Because enforcement is so difficult, it is essential that consumers be aware of the common ploys used by fraudulent telemarketers. The following suggests how you can detect telemarketing fraud and avoid becoming a victim.

10 Tip-Offs

10 Tip-offs the caller may be a crook:

  1. High Pressure Sales Tactics.
    The caller may realize you are not going to be an easy sale if you say you are not interested in the sales pitch. The caller may be reluctant to accept "no" as an answer and may use scare tactics and other high pressure sales tactics to get you to purchase whatever is being sold.
  2. Insistence on an immediate decision.
    The caller may use the urgency pitch telling you that "the offer is about to expire" or "you must make a decision today." They always give a reason why the offer cannot wait.
  3. The offer sounds too good to be true.
    If it does, it probably is. Some callers may make statements that sound just reasonable enough to keep you from hanging up. Others may make statements you know to be true so that when they spring the big lie for what they're selling, you'll be more likely to believe that, too.
  4. A request for your credit card number or your bank account number.
    A telemarketer may ask for this information for "identification", or for "verification" that you have won something. Whatever the ploy, once the swindler has your number, it is likely that unauthorized charges will appear on your account or a draft will be made on your bank account without your consent or knowledge. Never give account numbers to callers.
  5. An offer to send someone to your home to pick up the money, or some other method such as overnight mail to get your funds more quickly.
    This is likely to be part of their "urgency" pitch. It could be an effort to avoid mail fraud charges by bypassing postal authorities or simply a way of getting your money before you change your mind.
  6. A statement that something is "free" followed by a requirement that you pay for something.
    With swindlers, you generally have to pay in some way to get whatever it is said to be "free." The charge may be labeled as shipping and handling fees or shipping charge. Whatever you pay, far exceeds the true value of the "free" item.
  7. An investment that's "without risk."
    If there were any such thing as a risk-free investment with profits assured, the caller certainly wouldn't have to dial through the phone book to find investors.
  8. Unwillingness to provide written information or references that you can contact.
    The caller may be reluctant to answer your questions and inquiries about the firm by phone and may tell you that printed material isn't available yet.
  9. Unresponsiveness to questions or objections.
  10. The telemarketer is not registered with the Attorney General's Office as required by law.

Telephone Solicitations Law

Under the telemarketing laws, non-exempt telemarketers may not:

  • Use threatening, intimidating, abusive, profane or obscene language.
  • Access consumers' bank accounts without written authorization
  • Request or receive a fee in advance to remove derogatory information from a consumer's credit history
  • Direct or permit employees to use fictitious names while making a telephone solicitation.
  • Call before 10:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
  • Cause the telephone to ring more than 30 seconds in a solicitation.
  • Call someone who has previously stated that he or she does not wish to receive solicitations from that seller
  • Make a telephone solicitation to anyone under eighteen (18) years of age
  • Advertise or represent that registration as a telemarketer equals an endorsement or approval by any government or governmental agency.

Certain types of telemarketers are exempt from application of the No-Call Laws:

  • Telemarketers who have a prior or existing business relationship with you
  • Telemarketers who have received an express request from you to call
  • Telemarketers with whom you have an existing debt or contract
  • Telemarketers soliciting only donations for charities

Don't be a victim

Even though there is a law addressing the problems with telephone solicitations, your best protection is prevention. To avoid being swindled, follow these precautions:

  • When you receive a telephone solicitation, get as much information as you can from the caller, then ask the solicitor if he/she is registered with the Attorney General's Office. Verify this information by calling the Attorney General's Office. You may find that they are not registered; however, the information you give the office may assist the office in locating the company and requiring them to register.
  • Find out if any complaints have been registered against the company by calling the Consumer Protection Division or the Better Business Bureau. Just because no complaints are on file, does not mean the company is legitimate. Remember, these companies often operate under several different names.
  • Don't give out your credit card number or your bank account number to unsolicited callers, or even if you initiate the phone call in response to a notice you received in the mail. Just because you have phoned them for "additional information" doesn't mean you should be any less cautious.
  • Don't allow yourself to be pushed into a hurried decision. If you feel pressured, hang up!
  • Never purchase anything in order to receive the "free prize."
  • If you have been a previous victim of telephone fraud, be cautious of companies claiming that they can recover your lost money for an up-front fee. They too, are usually just another scam artist.
  • Often bogus charities will call for contributions. Before donating, check out the charity with the Attorney General's Office.