Most sales pitches are made on behalf of legitimate organizations offering genuine products and service, but many sales calls are frauds. There are ways to protect yourself.
General Information You Should Know
Telemarketing scams follow a relatively predictable sequence. First, seasoned scammers obtain your telephone number from a directory, mailing list, or other sources of information. If you have been the victim of telemarketing in the past, you may be targeted more often, as your contact information is likely already available to these marketers. Scammers then simply take this information and cold call consumers like you.
Second, some scams are initiated through direct mail. Often, a consumer gets a letter saying that they’ve won a contest, urging the consumer to respond within a certain limited period of time. If you respond, a fraudster may use persuasive sales pitches, scare tactics, or false claims to trick you into providing the money or information they want.
Third, some scams are done through Broadcast or Print Advertisements, in which consumers are once again asked to initiate the contact. The fact that you initiate the call does not mean that you should be less cautious about protecting yourself.
Common Products/Services that Scammers Pitch
Some common telemarketing scams include:
1. Prize offers
2. Travel Packages (advertising “free” or “low cost” vacations)
3. Investments (“get rich quick”)
4. Charities (some scams have very similar names to recognized charities)
How Can You Protect Yourself?
First, know your rights; you have avenues to protect yourself against telemarketing scammers. The Federal Trade Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule requires certain disclosures and prohibits misrepresentation. Become familiar with these rules and ask for the information that you are entitled to if and when you receive a call.
Some of these rules include:
1. It is illegal to call you before 8 AM and after 9 PM.
2. If you are registered in the National Do Not Call Registry, it is illegal for a telemarketer to call you. (Register at www.donotcall.com)
3. Even if you are not on the Do Not Call Registry, you can still request a company not to call you, and they must honor your request. (Make sure to keep a record of the date that you made a request to the company. Remember, the more information the better.)
4. It is illegal for telemarketers to misrepresent information.
5. It is illegal to ask for a fee upfront, and telemarketers are required to tell you that they are making a sales call and what they are selling before making the pitch. If they do not, call them out on it.
6. Telemarketers must tell you the total cost of the products or services offered and any restrictions on obtaining or using them.
How to Respond
There are other ways to respond and defend yourself. Some of these tactics are:
1. Report a Telemarketing Scam on Scambook.com
2. Do not be pressured to make an immediate decision.
3. Do not give your Social Security Number, credit card, or other account information to anyone.
4. Get all information in writing before agreeing to anything. Records are key to protecting yourself!
5. Look into unsolicited offers with the Better Business Bureau, a local consumer protection agency, or your state’s Attorney General’s office. If something is fishy, report it.
6. Beware of identify thieves. If you are contacted by people who say they are from companies you do business with asking to verify personal information such as your SSN or bank account information, contact the company directly to confirm before providing any information.