Community Services Division
It is estimated that there are 14,000 illegal telemarketing operations bilking U.S. citizens of at least $40 billion annually. Surveys by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reveal that over half of telemarketing fraud victims are age 50 or older.
We can fight back against this terrible crime. One thing that as consumers we need to understand is that fraudulent telemarketers are criminals!!!! They are not sleazy salespeople trying to make a living; they are hardened criminals out to take away your life savings.
As senior citizen consumers, it is important to know how to identify fraudulent sales pitches. Once you know the signs of fraudulent telemarketers you can hang up on them.
Shopping by phone is very convenient and there are many legitimate companies that do business through telemarketing. Unfortunately, crooks also use the telephone every day to commit robbery against consumers.
Tips for Seniors
It is sometimes hard to tell if a sales pitch is legitimate. You can't judge by a person's tone of voice how friendly or sincere a person is. Good sales people can be convincing and so can crooks. It probably is a fraud if:
- You get a postcard or phone call from someone telling you that you have won a prize and you are asked to pay for processing or administrative fees. With a postcard, you are given a number to call to claim your prize.
- The telemarketer says that you have to take the offer immediately or you will miss out. Remember legitimate companies do not pressure people to act without time to look into the deal.
- The caller refuses to send you written information before you commit to anything. Legitimate companies are always glad to send you information about what they are selling.
- The caller claims that you can make huge profits in an investment with no risks. Remember that all investments come with a risk and legitimate companies must tell you about them.
- The caller asks for your social security number. Never give out your social security number and only give out your bank or credit card information when you are ready to make a purchase. A legitimate company only asks for financial information to bill you or debit your account for purchases YOU have agreed to make.
- A caller continues to call you or take no for an answer. You can tell a caller to place your number on their do not call list and if they call again, write down the date and company if you know it and report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357. This is a toll free call.
- A caller offers you a loan to repair your bad credit if you pay an upfront fee. A legitimate lender will never ask for money in advance and you cannot get bad information removed from a credit report if it is accurate.
- A caller offers to get back money that you lost in another fraudulent scheme. Sometimes it is the same people that got you the first time. Remember that law enforcement agencies do not ask for payment to help you get your money back.
REMEMBER THAT GIVING MONEY TO A FRAUDULENT TELEMARKETER USUALLY MEANS LOSING IT FOREVER!!!!
How can you tell if an older relative or friend may be a target for telemarketing fraud? Here are some warning signs:
- The person receives a lot of junk mail for contest, free trips, prizes and sweepstakes.
- The person gets frequent phone calls from people offering valuable rewards, great money making opportunities, or charitable donations.
- The person has a lot of cheap items such as costume jewelry, watches, pens, pencils, small appliances, beauty products, etc, that they have purchased trying to win something. Remember that in any offer, legitimate or illegitimate, buying something does not increase you chances of winning!!!!
- The person has written numerous checks or made numerous withdrawals for large amounts of money to unfamiliar or out of state companies.
- The person acts secretively about phone calls.
- The person may be having trouble paying bills and purchasing daily necessities.
- The person is making a lot of wire transfers or having money picked up by private courier.
Reasons Seniors Are Easy Targets:
- It is hard to tell if a caller is legitimate.
- It is hard to hang up.
- Seniors are targeted relentlessly.
- Seniors tend to trust more.