Schemes, Scams & Flim-Flams
This page is here to warn you, it doesn't include everything you should know or everything to do. The page is designed to give you ideas about what should be done and hopefully help you, so you don't become a victim. If you have questions or complaints they can be directed to the National Fraud Information Center at (800) 876-7060, or contact your local Police Department.
SCHEMES: "You've won a free
SCAMS: "We'll reserve a place with your deposit
FLIM FLAMS: "This offer is prepaid if ..:'
They're all too good to be true - and they're all directed at you.
Telephone sales, telemarketing," are the primary source of funding for many legitimate businesses, non-profit organizations and consumer groups, and no doubt you've received such calls. Theaters sell subscriptions, volunteer firefighters raise money and companies sell products - all using the telephone. However, dishonest individuals also use the telephone to con unsuspecting consumers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars a day. The NFIC has estimated the total cost of telemarketing fraud to consumers may be as high as $40 billion a year!
It's important to be able to differentiate between a legitimate and a fraudulent telephone solicitation. The typical legitimate telemarketing call comes from a well known organization for a product or service with which the consumer is familiar. The legitimate telemarketer generally does not request immediate payment or demand a quick decision.
How can you avoid becoming a telephone swindler's next victim? The answer is easy: "Know the difference. Hang up on fraud."
PUT A STOP TO "PHONE-Y" TELEMARKETING SCHEMES protect yourself and your money. The next time a telemarketer has you on the line, be ALERT:
Refuse to be pressured
Tell the authorities
What should you ask all telemarketers before making a purchase?
Ask for the name, address and phone number of the company represented by the caller, as well as the caller name.
Ask for written information on the product or service and its price.
Ask how they got your name.
Ask about the offers expiration date.
A reputable telemarketer will answer your questions patiently and be willing to send you written information. An illegitimate telemarketer probably will hang up or call back later.
Persistent scam artists will pressure you to send money or provide your credit card number or other personal information immediately. DON'T DO IT!
Once you've fallen for a telemarketing scam, you will gain a reputation as an easy target and, chances are, you'll be called again and again.
SOME PHONE FRAUD - DOs and DON'Ts
DO be wary of telephone calls or postcards with offers "too good to be true." They usually are.
DO ask lots of questions and listen CAREFULLY to the answers. Fraudulent telemarketers shade the truth to make offers appear legitimate. Of course, if the caller doesn't answer your questions, hang UP.
DO refuse to be pressured into making a hasty decision. Legitimate callers will allow time for consideration.
DO be skeptical if you're told you've won a prize, but have to pay something to receive it e.g., tax, shipping and handling costs.
DO refuse a prize if told you must make a purchase to claim it. In some states, once a prize is promised it must be given regardless of a consumer's purchase decision.
DO check out the telemarketer with consumer protection organizations or government agencies.
DO tell children in your household never to give financial information to callers and teach them how to spot phony calls.
DO make your elderly friends and relatives aware that fraudulent callers prey heavily on older people.
DON'T be ashamed to ask questions.
DON'T give your credit card account number, personal identification number (PIN), expiration date or other credit information to a caller unless you know you're dealing with a reputable concern. Crooks can use credit card information to charge unauthorized purchases to your credit card. An account number and expiration date are all it takes to charge purchases.
DON'T send cash, a check or money order by messenger, overnight delivery or wire to any telemarketer insisting on immediate payment.
DON'T provide a telemarketer with the name of your bank, checking account number or copy of your signature, regardless of the reasons given for the request. Your signature and account number can be a crooks passport to your bank account.
DON'T be embarrassed to report telemarketing fraud. Anyone can fall prey to a scam artist - law enforcement files are fill of cases in which well educated individuals were duped by phony callers. If you are swindled by a telemarketer, make sure you report your experience as soon as possible.
HOW TO GET HELP
The more often consumers report incidents of phone fraud, the easier it becomes for swindlers to be shut down and apprehended. Fraud flourishes when left unreported. In fact, scam artists count on your reluctance to admit you've been taken: NFIC research shows that fewer than 10 percent of fraud victims report their losses to law enforcement authorities.
You can register a complaint with NFIC by calling its hotline: 1-800-876-7060.
The NFIC will log your call into a computerized national law enforcement database operated by the Federal Trade Commission. This database is used extensively by the FTC, FBI, Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney General and state and local consumer protection offices to bring criminals to justice.
If you suspect a scam, you should also file a complaint with your state's Attorney General or Office of Consumer Protection as soon as possible. The state Attorney General and local district attorney investigate and prosecute fraud cases.
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