“You’ve won a free vacation!”

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The Silver Life - Telemarketing tales

Telemarketing tales to the unsuspecting

We are considered a target-rich environment for people wanting to steal our money electronically, either over the internet or through telemarketing. The FBI has a wonderful site that details each of more than fifteen types of schemes, how to recognize them and how to prevent them.

These are as varied as the creative criminal mind can conceive, but a simple and time-honored axiom is “if it seems too good to be true then it probably is” regardless of the source of the offer.

[private]Let’s take a look at telemarketing. If you have not signed up for the service that prevents telemarketers from calling you, do so immediately in the United States at the National Do Not Call Registry. If you are in a different country, there will be an equivalent site applicable to your place of residence. Now that you have eliminated 90% of the potentially fraudulent telephone calls, we can deal with the ones that ignore the Do Not Call Registry and get through in spite of the illegality of calling you.

Do not be surprised that the caller knows your name; often they have done enough research to know some basic facts about you. In general if a caller promises “free” or “low-cost” vacations and get-rich-quick schemes, just say “no thank you,” and hang up the phone.

Other offers that should raise huge red flags and cause you to hang up include phrases like the following:

  • You must act NOW or the offer won’t be good.
  • You’ve won a FREE gift, vacation, or prize. But you have to 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 courier. You may hear this before you have had a chance to consider the offer carefully.
  • You don’t need to check out the company with anyone. The caller will say you do not need to speak to anyone including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection agency.
  • You don’t need any written information about the company or references.
  • You can’t afford to miss this high-profit, no-risk offer.

If you do want to purchase something over the phone, please remember that it’s very difficult to get your money back if you’ve been cheated over the phone.

Before you buy anything by telephone, the FBI lists these things to remember:

  • 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. But, unfortunately, beware – not everything written down is true.
  • Always check out unfamiliar companies with your local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, state Attorney General, the National Fraud Information Center, or other watchdog groups. Unfortunately, not all bad businesses can be identified through these organizations.
  • Obtain a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business. Some con artists give out false names, telephone numbers, addresses, and business license numbers. Verify the accuracy of these items.
  • Before you give money to a charity or make an investment, find out what percentage of the money is paid in commissions and what percentage actually goes to the charity or investment.
  • Before you send money, ask yourself a simple question. “What guarantee do I really have that this person will use my money in the manner we agreed upon?”
  • You must not be asked to pay in advance for services. Pay services only after they are delivered.
  • Some con artists will send a messenger to your home to pick up money, claiming it is part of their service to you. In reality, they are taking your money without leaving any trace of whom they are or where they can be reached.
  • Always take your time making a decision. Legitimate companies won’t pressure you to make a snap decision.
  • Don’t pay for a “free” prize. If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating United States and many other countries’ law.
  • Before you receive your next sales pitch, decide what your limits are – the kinds of financial information you will and won’t give out on the telephone.
  • 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 personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or social security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons. Your personal information is often brokered to telemarketers through third parties.
  • If you have been victimized once, be wary of persons who call offering to help you recover your losses for a fee paid in advance.

For a more thorough look at schemes, current alerts and who may be behind some of these scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission site.

Sources: Internet Crime Complain Center

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