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Characteristics of Telemarketing Fraud

A telemarketing fraud scheme often begins when you receive a postcard or letter in the mail describing an appealing offer. To take advantage of the offer, you're told to call a 900 number or a toll-free 800 number. When you call, the telemarketer has a convincing sales pitch.

Protect yourself from becoming the victim of such fraud by remembering the following tip-offs, which will help you decide whether to deal with the promoter.

  • The offer sounds too good to be true. An unbelievable-sounding deal probably is not true.

  • High-pressure sales tactics. A swindler often refuses to take no for an answer; he has a sensible-sounding answer for your every hesitation, inquiry, or objection.

  • Insistence on an immediate decision. Swindlers often say you must make a decision "right now," and they usually give a reason, like, "The offer will expire soon."

  • You are one of just a few people eligible for the offer. Don't believe it. Swindlers often send out hundreds of thousands--and sometimes millions--of solicitations to consumers across the nation.

  • Your credit card number is requested for verification. Do not provide your credit card number (or even just its expiration date) if you are not making a purchase, even if you are asked for it for "identification" or "verification" purposes, or to prove "eligibility" for the offer. If you give your card number, the swindler may make unauthorized charges to your account, even if you decide not to buy anything. Once that is done, it may be very hard to get your money back.

  • You are urged to provide money quickly. A crook may try to impress upon you the urgency of making an immediate decision by offering to send a delivery service to your home or office to pick up your check. This may be to get your money before you have a chance to think carefully about the offer and change your mind, or to avoid the possibility of mail fraud charges in the future.

  • There is no risk. All investments have some risk, except for U.S. Government obligations. And if you are dealing with a swindler, any "money-back guarantee" he makes will simply not be honored.

  • You are given no detailed written information. If you must send money or provide a credit card number before the telemarketer gives you the details in writing, be skeptical. Do not accept excuses such as, "It's such a new offer we don't have any written materials yet," or "You'll get written information after you pay."

  • You are asked to trust the telemarketer. A swindler, unable to get you to take the bait with all of his other gimmicks, may ask you to "trust" him. Be careful about trusting a stranger you talk to on the phone.

  • You are told you have won a prize, but you must pay for something before you can receive it. This payment can either be a requirement to purchase a minimum order of cleaning supplies or vitamins, or it can be a shipping/handling charge or a processing fee. Do not deal with a promoter who uses this tactic.

If you have been bilked in a telemarketing scheme in which the U.S. Mail was used, or if you know about a scheme that should be investigated, inform your local postmaster or nearest Postal Inspector.