Telemarketing scams often involve offers of free prizes, low-cost health care products, and inexpensive vacations. They often use high pressure sales tactics such as, “You must act now, or the offer won’t be good,” in order to discourage consumers from consulting with family or trusted advisors about the product or investment. All too often, these fraudulent sales pitches are run by scammers trying to bilk you out of your hard earned savings. It is very difficult to track down these scammers and even more difficult to have your money returned once a transaction has taken place. Regardless of the phone number that shows up on your caller ID, the fraudulent telemarketer could actually be calling from anywhere in the world.
“Unfortunately, giving your money to a fraudulent telemarketer could mean losing it forever,” stated Caldwell. “Our best line of defense is to educate the public on how to recognize telemarketing fraud, so they can avoid being scammed all together.”
The Attorney General’s Office and the FBI offer the following tips to recognize and avoid telemarketing scams:
•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.
•Don’t pay for a “free prize.” If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.
•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.
•Be wary of companies that want to 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 who 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.
•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 beware – not everything written down is true.
•Be sure to talk over big investments offered by telephone salespeople with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor. It’s never rude to wait and think about an offer.
•Never respond to an offer you don’t understand thoroughly.
•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.
Reporting suspected telemarketing fraud is essential to stop it. To report a telemarketing scam, please contact the Louisiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-351-4889.