Signs of a Scam
Often, scammers who operate by phone don’t want to give you time to think about their pitch; they just want you to say “yes.” But some are so cunning that, even if you ask for more information, they seem happy to comply. They may direct you to a web site or otherwise send information featuring “satisfied customers.” These customers, known as shills, are likely as fake as their praise for the company.
Here are a few red flags to help you spot telemarketing scams. If you hear a line that sounds like this, hang up, and file a complaint with the FTC:
- You’ve been specially selected (for this offer).
- You’ll get a free bonus if you buy our product.
- You’ve stayed at one of our resorts in the past so we have a special offer for you.
- You’ve been selected for a complimentary (free) vacation.
- You’ve won one of five valuable prizes.
- You’ve won big money in a foreign lottery.
- This investment is low risk and provides a higher return than you can get anywhere else.
- You have to make up your mind right away.
- You trust me, right?
- You don’t need to check our company with anyone.
- We’ll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card.
- Calling to notify you that the IRS has issued a warrant for your arrest. You need to pay immediately.
- Your computer is infected with a virus.
- Your credit card has been suspended. I need to verify your identity to re-activate it.
- You can buy a gift card and read us the numbers.
- You can wire the money to us from any Western Union outlet.
Why They’re Calling You
Everyone’s a potential target. Fraud isn’t limited to race, ethnic background, gender, age, education, or income. That said, some scams seem to concentrate in certain groups. For example, older people may be targeted because the caller assumes they may live alone, have a nest egg, or may be more polite toward strangers.
Some Additional Guidelines
- Don’t return phone calls from unknown callers in the area codes listed below. You receive a call from what appears to be a local, but unfamiliar number. Your phone rings once and then disconnects. You call it back and your call is directed to an international number that starts charging you, similar to a 900 number. A victim will not know what happened until their next phone bill arrives. The scammers work by calling victims using a phone number that looks like an ordinary domestic number. These numbers are actually foreign numbers that were carefully chosen to look like domestic number.
- 268 – Antugua/Barbuda
- 809 – Dominican Republic
- 876 – Jamaica
- 284 – British Virgin Islands
- 473 – Grenada
- Resist pressure to make a decision immediately.
- Keep your credit card, checking account, or Social Security numbers to yourself. Don’t tell them to callers you don’t know — even if they ask you to “confirm” this information. That’s a trick.
- Don’t pay for something just 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 the caller to send you written information so you can make an informed decision without being pressured, rushed, or guilted into it.
- If the offer is an investment, check with your state securities regulator to see if the offer — and the offeror — are properly registered.
- Don’t send cash by messenger, overnight mail, or money transfer. If you use cash or a money transfer — rather than a credit card — you may lose your right to dispute fraudulent charges. The money will be gone.
- Don’t agree to any offer for which you have to pay a “registration” or “shipping” fee to get a prize or a gift.
Research offers with your consumer protection agency or state Attorney General’s office before you agree to send money.
- Beware of offers to “help” you recover money you have already lost. Callers that say they are law enforcement officers who will help you get your money back “for a fee” are scammers.
- Report any caller who is rude or abusive, even if you already sent them money. They’ll want more. Call 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit ftc.gov/complaint
What To Do About Pre-Recorded Calls
If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it’s a robocall. Recorded messages that are trying to sell you something are generally illegal unless you have given the company written permission to call you.
If you get a robocall:
- Hang up the phone. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other key to take your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.
- Consider asking your phone company whether they charge for blocking phone numbers. Remember that telemarketers change Caller ID information easily and often, so it might not be worth paying a fee to block a number that will change.
- Some cell phones have a feature to identify unsaved numbers. Enable this feature to learn if the caller is a known scammer.
- Report your experience to the FTC online or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
If you get phone service through Internet or cable, you might want to look into services that screen and block robocalls. Try doing an online search for “block robocalls.”