Annoying telemarketing and robocalling are now as American as Fourth of July fireworks. It’s just as easy to get burned by them as well. According to Consumer Reports Magazine, $350 million is lost to telephone fraud each year by Americans. As in many scams, the elderly are often targeted. It’s no longer just a landline problem either: three quarters of telemarketing scams in the U.S. are perpetrated over wireless devices.
For years the Federal Trade Commission has been trying to chip away at the problem with its Telemarketing Sales Rule. The newest amendment to the rule kicked in on June 13 of this year. Here is a summary put together by your Better Business Bureau of those changes.
Illegal telemarketing strategy
Telemarketing scammers want to get at your money as quickly (and anonymously, of course) as possible. For that reason they have always preferred forms of payment like wire transfers and reloadable, prepaid cards. Once a scammer has obtained money with such methods, there is virtually no chance you could ever get your money back.
Accordingly the FTC rule now specifies that it is illegal for telemarketers to request payment in these forms:
• Wire transfers. Examples of this would be transfers through MoneyGram and Western Union. It’s a particular favorite of overseas scammers since it accesses a worldwide money transferring system.
• Reloadable prepaid cards. MoneyPak and Vanilla Reload cards are examples of this method. They work by the consumer paying a fee to activate the card. The scammer then asks for a card and personal identification number, with which they can pull out the money and leave the victim with nothing.
The newly amended rule also bans telemarketers from asking you for your bank account information in order to use a remotely created check. You never actually see or sign the check so it is literally giving a stranger a blank check written against your account.
Any caller who requests money from you through any of the above methods is breaking the law if they are a party with which you have never done business with in the past. The proper response is a firm “No,” and hanging up the phone.
All consumers are urged to have their number placed on the National Do Not Call Registry. This one step can stop the vast majority of unwanted telemarketer calls that you receive. These are the main exceptions from which you may still be called:
• Organizations with which you have established a business relationship. They can call you up to 18 months after your last purchase, payment or delivery.
• Political organizations. Because this is an election year, you may be getting more calls than usual from these.
• Telephone surveys.
Place your number on the registry by going to donotcall.gov, or calling toll-free (888) 382-1222. Remember that if you do register by phone, you must call from the number you want listed. Online registration requires that you give your email address so they may send you a confirmation of your listing.
Companies that do telemarketing are required by law to buy a copy of the Do Not Call Registry list every year. They cannot call you once you are on that list.
If you have questions or concerns regarding telemarketing or robocalls, contact your Better Business Bureau by calling (800) 856-2417, or visit our website at bbbinc.org.