Telemarketing Fraud

Telemarketing fraud is a multi-billion dollar business in the United States and if you're age 60 or older, you may be a special target for people who sell bogus products and services by phone. Prize offers, travel packages, vitamins and other health products, investments, charitable solicitations and recovery scams are frequently used to lure unsuspecting victims.

Government regulations like the Telemarketing Sales Rule require telemarketers to make certain disclosures and prohibit certain misrepresentations. For example:

  • It's illegal for a telemarketer to call if you've asked not to be called.
  • Calling times are restricted to the hours between 8 AM and 9 PM.
  • Telemarketers must tell you it's a sales call and who's doing the selling before they make their pitch.
  • It's illegal for telemarketers to misrepresent any information, including facts about their goods or services, earnings potential, profitability, risk or liquidity of an investment, or the nature of a prize in a prize-promotion scheme.
  • Telemarketers must tell you the total cost of the products or services they're offering and any restrictions on getting or using them, or that a sale is final or non-refundable, before you pay.
  • It's illegal for a telemarketer to withdraw money from your checking account without your verifiable authorization.
  • Telemarketers cannot lie to get you to pay, no matter what method of payment you use.

How to protect yourself

Don't buy from an unfamiliar company. Legitimate businesses understand that you want more information about their company and are happy to comply. Always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity.

If you get brochures about costly investments, ask someone whose financial advice you trust to review them.

Always check out unfamiliar companies with your local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, state Attorney General or other groups. Unfortunately, not all bad businesses can be identified through these organizations.

Always take your time making a decision. Legitimate companies won't pressure you to make a snap decision. It's never rude to wait and think about an offer. Be sure to talk over big investments offered by telephone salespeople with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor.

Never respond to an offer you don't understand thoroughly. Never send money or give out your credit card or bank account number to unfamiliar companies. Be aware that any personal or financial information you provide may be sold to other companies.

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