Avoiding Telemarketing Scams

Telemarketing scams are illegal under federal and state law.  Unfortunately, telemarketing fraud remains a significant problem throughout the United States, particularly among seniors.

Annual losses from telemarketing scams in the United States is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

Telemarketing fraud happens when a con artist calls posing as a legitimate telemarketer and tries to solicit money, personal identification or financial information such as social security or bank account numbers from you.  These fraudulent telemarketers are very good at what they do.  Their schemes are too numerous to catalogue here but they commonly involve sweepstakes and lottery prizes, work-at-home scams, to good to be true business or investment opportunities, magazine subscription scams, advance fee credit card and loan offers, government grants and benefits scams by persons posing as government employees, family emergency scams and charity and fundraising fraud.

The con artist commonly pressures you to wire money right away through companies like Western Union or MoneyGram in order to get the promised prize, winnings or other benefits.  They want you to wire the money before you realize that you were cheated.  Once you wire the money you can’t get it back.  It’s like sending cash.

Under state and federal law, it is illegal to ask a consumer to send money in order to receive or redeem any prize.  If someone contacts you and says that you have won a sweepstakes or prize and that you can claim the prize by wiring them a “processing” or “redemption” fee, you should be very suspicious.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Recognize how to identify the most common telemarketing scams.
  • Hang up .  This is the best way to avoid being victimized by fraudulent

telemarketers.

  • Report phone fraud immediately to the Federal Trade Commission toll free at (877) 382-4357 or the State Office of Consumer Protection at (808) 587-3222.
  • Register your telephone number with the National Do Not Call Registry at https://www.donotcall.gov or call toll free at (888) 382-1222.  Registering can help limit the number of telemarketing calls you receive, so you can be more alert to calls you get.

Most importantly, do not wire money or give out your social security or other personal financial information in response to an unsolicited telemarketing caller before you check out their business first with the Federal Trade Commission, the local Better Business Bureau, or the State Office of Consumer Protection.

The Federal Trade Commission offers helpful information on this serious problem at the following website: http://www.ftc.gov/phonefraud .  They also offer other helpful publications that you can order for free by calling (877) 382-4357.

You can also find more information about telemarketing scams on our website at: http://cca.hawaii.gov/ocp/brochures/ or by calling the Office of Consumer Protection at (808) 586-2636.