Telemarketing is a legitimate multi-billion dollar business in the United States. However, fraudulent telemarketers try to take advantage of everyone, but particularly the elderly on the theory that they may be more trusting and polite toward strangers. Every year, thousands of consumers lose money to these con artists, ranging from just a few dollars to their entire life savings.
You can avoid many telemarketing calls by registering online with the National Do Not Call Registry.
Reasons People Can Easily Become Victims of Telemarketing Fraud:
- Often it is hard to tell for sure whether a sales call is legitimate.
- Telephone con artists are skilled at sounding believable, even when they are really telling lies.
- Sometimes telephone con artists reach you when you are feeling lonely. They may call back day after day, until you think a friend, not a stranger, is trying to sell you something.
- Some telephone salespeople have an answer for everything. You may find it hard to get them off the phone, even if they are selling something in which you are not interested.
- You may be promised free gifts, prizes, vacations, or even the "investment of a lifetime," but only if you act "right away." It may sound like a really good deal, but of course, they are only after your money.
Tip-offs to Telephone Fraud
If you are told any of the following things on the phone, it's likely a scam. Simply hang up the phone.
- You must act now, or else the offer won't be good.
- You can't afford to miss this "high profit, no-risk" offer.
- You have won a "free" gift, vacation, or prize, but you must pay for "postage and handling" or other charges.
- You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by a courier (all before you have had a chance to consider the offer carefully).
- You are told that you do not need to check out the company with anyone (including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection agency).
- You are told that you do not need any written information about their company or their references.
What to Do If You Receive a Suspected Fraudulent Call
The best two things you can do during a fraudulent telemarketing call are to 1) never give or confirm any personal identifying information (date of birth, social security number, credit card number, driver license number, etc.) to them, and 2) hang up the phone as quickly as possible. Remember, you are in charge of when to hang up. Do not feel guilty for simply hanging up on a telemarketer - they are actually used to it!
If you have a hard time, like many people do, with hanging up on someone, here are some techniques that you may find helpful instead:
- Use the same reply to their questions (such as, "I'm not interested") over and over again.
- Bluff them, by saying something like, "Please hang on while I turn on my tape recorder".
- Play dumb and make them repeat themselves over and over again.
- Be honest, by saying something like, "I just do not have any money that I can afford to give you. Thank you for calling".
If You've Become a Victim...
If you have fallen victim to one of these scams and sent money to them, you are not alone. Please promptly report it to us by calling our 24-hour dispatch center at (650) 329-2413 so we can help you.