Here’s some tips from the Federal Trade Commission:

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Telemarketing fraud is a multi-billion dollar business in the United States.

If you’re age 60 or older, you may be a special target for people who sell bogus products and services by phone. The best way to protect yourself is to know the dif­ferences between legitimate offers and fraudulent ones.

How Telemarketers Contact You

Cold Calls. Operators may get your number from a telephone directory, a mailing list, or what fraudsters call a “sucker list.” Sucker lists contain information about people who have responded to previous telemarketing solicita­tions, like their name, phone number, and how much money they spent. The lists are bought and sold by promoters. They are invaluable to scam artists, who believe that consumers who have been deceived once are vulnerable to additional scams.

Direct Mail.
You may get a letter or postcard saying you’ve won a prize or a contest. This often is a front for a scam. The instructions tell you to respond to the promot­er with certain information. If you do, you’ll be called by some­one who may use persuasive sales pitches, scare tactics, and false claims to deceive you and take your money.
Broadcast and Print Advertisements. You may place a call in response to a television, newspaper, or magazine advertise­ment. The fact that you initiate the call doesn’t mean the business is legitimate or that you should be less cautious about buying or investing on the phone.

How Older People Become Victims of Telemarketing Fraud

Often it’s hard to know whether a sales call is legitimate. Telephone con artists are skilled at sounding believable — even when they’re really telling lies.

Sometimes telephone con artists reach you when you’re feeling lonely. They may call 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’re sell­ing something you’re not inter­ested in — because you don’t want to be rude. You may be promised free gifts, prizes, or vacations — or the “investment of a lifetime” — but only if you act “right away.” It may sound like a really good deal. In fact, telephone con artists are only after your money. Don’t give it to them.

>The Hooks

Prize Offers. You usually have to do something to get your “free” prize, like attend a sales presenta­tion, buy something, pay a fee, or give out a credit card number. But the prizes are worthless or overpriced.

Travel Packages. “Free” or “low cost” vacations can end up cost­ing a bundle in hidden costs. You may pay a high price for some part of the package — like hotel or airfare. The total cost may run two to three times more than what you’d expect to pay, or what you were led to believe. Some “bargain” vacations may never happen at all.

Investments. People lose millions of dollars each year to “get rich quick” schemes that promise high returns with little or no risk. These can include movies or cable television production deals, Internet gambling, rare coins, art, or other “investment opportunities.” The schemes vary, but one thing is consistent: Unscrupulous promoters of invest­ment fraud rely on the fact that investing may be complicated, and many people don’t research the investment process.

Charities. Con artists often push you for an immediate gift, but won’t send written information so you can check them out. They also may try to confuse you by using names that sound like well-known charitable organizations or even law enforcement agencies.

Reloading Scams. If you buy into any of the above scams, you’re likely to be called again by some­one promising to get your money back. Be careful not to lose more money to this common practice. Even law enforcement officials can’t guarantee they’ll recover your money.

Foreign Lotteries. Scam operators — often based in Canada — are using the telephone and direct mail to entice U.S. consumers to buy chances in high-stakes for­eign lotteries from as far away as Australia and Europe. These lot­tery solicitations violate U.S. law, which prohibits the cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets by phone or mail. And you may never see a ticket.

Medical Discounts. If you’re considering signing up for a medical discount plan, be aware of scam artists who are reportedly contacting seniors claiming to represent providers. All they really want is your personal information so they can commit financial fraud.

“Expiring” car warranties. Scammers find out what kind of car you drive, and when you bought it, so they can pitch overpriced — or worthless — extended car warranties.

Tip-Offs to Rip-Offs

If you hear these — or similar — “lines” from a telephone salesperson, just say “no
thank you,” and hang up the phone.

“You’ve been specially selected to hear this offer.”

“You’ll get a wonderful free bonus if you buy our product.”

“You’ve won one of five valuable prizes.”

“You’ve won big money in a foreign lottery.”

“You must send money right away.”

“This investment is low risk and provides a higher return than you can get anywhere

“You have to make up your mind right away.”

“You don’t need to check our company with anyone”- including your family, lawyer,
accountant, local Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection agency.

“We’ll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card.”

“You don’t need any written information about our company or references.”

How Can You Protect Yourself?

NEVER be pressured to make an immediate decision.
NEVER give your credit card, checking account, or Social Security number to unknown callers.
NEVER pay for something merely because you’ll get a “free gift.”
Get all information in writing before you agree to buy.
Check out a charity before you give. Ask how much of your donation actually goes to the charity. Ask that written informa­tion be sent to you so you can make an informed giving decision.
NEVER invest your money with an unknown caller who insists you make up your mind immediately.
NEVER send cash by messenger or overnight mail. If you use cash rather than a credit card in the transaction, you may lose your right to dispute fraudulent charges.
Make sure you know the per minute charge for any 900-num­ber call you make.
NEVER agree to any offer where you have to pay a “registration” or “shipping fee” to receive a prize or a gift. If you have to pay, it’s a purchase — not a prize or a gift.
NEVER confirm your account information over the phone or by email. Some callers have your billing information before they call you. They’re trying to get you to say “okay” so they can claim you approved a charge.
Check out unsolicited offers with the Better Business Bureau, local consumer protection agency, or state Attorney General’s office before you agree to send money.
BEWARE of offers to “help” you recover money you may have lost previously. Be wary of callers say­ing they are law enforcement officers who will help you get your money back “for a fee.”
NEVER be afraid to say “no thanks” and hang up the phone
If you don’t want a business to call you again, say so. If they call back, they’re breaking the law.


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