It is unfortunate, but true, that as technology advances in our country, so does consumer fraud. While identity theft is the number one cause of consumer fraud, it can come in many forms.
One of the greatest fraud threats to our senior population is telemarketing fraud. According to a study done by the AARP, one-third of all telemarketing fraud victims are over the age of 60. Dishonest telemarketers, and door-to-door salesmen, are preying on the good hearts of the senior population. It is often hard to imagine that the person with the sweet voice in the other end of the phone, or standing in your doorway, is anything more than a young person trying to make a living, which can often be true. Unfortunately, it is easy to confuse an honest telemarketer with a scam artist. Scam artists rely on the fact that seniors do not want to be rude and hang up or ask a person to leave, they rely on the trusting nature of people and wear victims down through continuous visits or calls.
To stop this abuse, we must first realize that telemarketing and door-to-door sales fraud are felonies and the person who commits such a crime is not concerned at all about the destruction of the lifestyle or life savings of the victim. Once we realize this, it will be easier to move forward with spotting a telemarketing or door-to-door sales predator.
So what are the red flags to look for when dealing with a salesperson or telemarketer? They include:
· A promise that you can win money, make money, or borrow money easily;
· A demand that you act immediately or else miss out on this great opportunity;
· A refusal to send you written information before you agree to buy or donate;
· An attempt to scare you into buying something;
· Insistence that you wire money or have a courier pick up your payment; and,
· A refusal to stop calling after you’ve asked not to be called again.
It is of great importance that we all remember we should not have to pay up front for anything, and if a deal seems too good to be true, it is! It is illegal for companies to offer contests or sweepstakes and it is illegal for telemarketers to ask for fees up front.
If you are worried that a member of your family may be taken advantage of, look for signs of a problem. These may include receiving large quantities of mail regarding free offers or sweepstakes, frequent calls on the caller ID from strange numbers, making repeat or large payments to out-of-state companies, difficulty in buying groceries or paying normal monthly bills, subscribing to more magazines than a person can normally read, or receiving a lot of cheap items or trinkets in the mail.
If you or a member of your family has been victim to these types of fraud, contact your local police department to file a report and alert the Alabama Attorney Generals consumer hotline at 1-800-392-5658.