Safe Families

Mar 5, 2013 2:42 PM by Press Release

Fighting telemarketing fraud against the elderly

Consumers lose more than $40 billion each year to telemarketing fraud. People over 50 years of age are especially vulnerable and account for about 56 percent of all victims, according to a study by the American Association of Retired Persons.

Scam artists often target older people, knowing they tend to be trusting and polite toward strangers and are likely to be home and have time to talk with callers.

The best way to empower elderly family members and friends against fraudulent telemarketers is to describe how these scams work and suggesting ways they can protect themselves.

Many scams involve bogus prize offers, phony travel packages, get-rich-quick investments and fake charities. Con artists are skilled liars who spend a lot of time polishing their sales pitches. As a result, it can be difficult to see through their scams.

As a general rule, if a call offering prize winnings come from Canada, Jamaica or overseas, be very suspicious. Many current scams targeting the elderly are originating from these locations, as they are out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement.

Tip-offs to phone fraud:

• High pressure sales pitches such as "You must act now or the offer will expire."

• You've won a "free" gift, vacation or prize-but you must pay taxes or some other charge.

• You must send money by Western Union, give a credit card or bank account number or have your check picked up by courier before you've had a chance to consider the offer carefully.

• They tell the elderly that It's not necessary to check out the company with a family lawyer, accountant, the local Better Business Bureau or the State Attorney General or Federal Trade Commission.

• Elderly residents are told they don't need written information about the company or its references.

• Seniors are told they can't afford to miss this "high-profit, no-risk" offer.

It also is helpful for people who are the targets of fraudulent telemarketers to know their rights.

Anyone who is troubled by calls - whether abusive, deceptive or simply annoying - should know that, under federal law:

• It's illegal for a telemarketer to call you if you have asked not to be called.

• Calling times are restricted to the hours between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

• If it's a prize promotion, they must tell you that you don't have to pay or buy anything to enter or win.

• Telemarketers may not lie about any information, including any facts about their goods or services, the earnings potential, profitability, risk or liquidity of an investment, or the nature of a prize in a prize promotion scheme.

• Before you pay, telemarketers must tell you the total cost of the goods and any restrictions on getting or using them, or that a sale is final or non-refundable. In a prize promotion, they must tell you the odds of winning, that no purchase or payment is necessary to win and any restrictions or conditions of receiving the prize.

• Telemarketers may not withdraw money from your checking account without your express, verifiable authorization.

• Telemarketers cannot lie to get you to pay.

You also can help people you care about develop responses that will end an unwanted sales call. Tell elderly family members and friends to simply say, "I'm not interested. Please remove me from your call list. Thank you and goodbye," then hang up with no further discussion.

The BBB of Acadiana works for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses. Please contact the BBB at www.acadiana.bbb.org or (337) 981-3497 24 hours a day for information on businesses throughout North America.

The BBB of Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.

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