Hanging up on telemarketing fraud

Published on Thu, Feb 27, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Hanging up on telemarketing fraud

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

We�ve all been there. It�s 5:46 p.m. and you�re sitting down for dinner after a long, hectic day. The phone rings. It�s a telemarketer. Some of us hang up, but others politely remain on the line. For those that do, you�ve just become a potential victim of telemarketing fraud.

According to AARP, the American Association of Retired People, 56 percent of telemarketing fraud victims surveyed were 50 years or older. The FBI reported that there are thousands of fraudulent telemarketing companies, as many as 14,000, operating in the United States, and there are an increasing number of illegal telemarketers who target U.S. residents from outside countries.

Jon Landis, of the Blaine Police Department, said because of Blaine�s location, fraudulent telemarketers can often be found here. �A lot of them have mailboxes here, and they target people in the area,� he said, adding some residents have become victims.

�There are a lot of reading materials available for the community through the police department. We try and post them in areas like the senior center,� Landis said. �It�s important for people to use these materials.�

Your phone number�s for you
The more you give it out, the more calls you are likely to get. That�s the thinking authorities want you to have. If you give your number away, be aware that it may be circulated to other companies.

Sucker lists. Don�t fill out contest entry forms at fairs or malls, as they are a common source of �leads� for fraudulent telemarketers. Ask companies you do business with not to share your personal information with other marketers.

Calling rights. Know your do-not-call rights. Under federal law, you can tell a telemarketer not to call you again. If they call you again, contact the state attorney general�s office or consumer affairs department. Know who you�re dealing with. If it�s an unfamiliar company or charity, check it out with your state or local consumer protection agency. Ask for information about the company. If they are legitimate, they should have written materials and/or information posted on a company Web site.

Screen your calls. Use an answering machine, caller ID, or other services that may be available from your phone company to help you determine who you want to talk to and who you want to avoid. If you choose to pick up, know what questions to ask a telemarketer or what you want to say before speaking with them.

Hanging up on red flags
Recognizing the red flags of telephone fraud is an easy, effective method to protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Money. There is no reason to give your credit card number or bank account number to a telemarketer unless you are actually making a legitimate payment. You do not have to pay first in order to receive detailed information about any offer. Also, it�s illegal for companies that operate contests or sweepstakes to ask you to pay or suggest that your chances of winning will improve if you pay.

Insistence. All telemarketers have an element of insistence. After all, they are selling something, whether it�s legitimate or not. But if the �representative� on the other line demands that you act immediately or you�ll miss out on the opportunity, or tries to scare you into the purchase, hang up.

Refusals. If a telemarketer refuses to answer your questions or to send written information, he or she is not legitimate.

Recognizing when you�ve been victimized
It�s difficult for some victims to admit that they have been a victim of fraud; they would like to believe that it hasn�t happened to them.

Large payments and fees. If someone is making repeated and/or large payments to companies in other states or countries, he or she may be a victim of fraud. If you receive calls from organizations offering to recover, for a fee, money you have lost, hang up.

Frequent calls and mail. If you receive more calls than you can answer or if you gets lots of cheap stuff, change your phone number as soon as possible. Return to sender items received in the mail.

To report fraud, or attempted fraud, call your local authorities and the National Fraud Information Center at 800-876-7060. For informative articles and brochures about protecting yourself against telemarketing fraud and other crimes, contact Jon Landis of the Blaine police department at 332-6769.
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