How to Avoid Telemarketing Scams

Telemarketing scams are a constant in the consumer marketplace these days, so you should know how to recognize the signs.

Telemarketing scams represent an interesting species of fraud. The technology isn’t exactly new (telephony’s been in wide use for a century now), and yet people keep falling for these schemes. Why?

Well, like all the best scams, phone-based cons take advantage of social conventions…such as the one that makes us answer a phone automatically when it rings. After all, it might be someone important, right? The scammer certainly wants you to think so.

An Ounce of Prevention

The next time an unknown caller interrupts your dinner or the latest CSI incarnation, tread very cautiously — if you decide pick up the phone at all.

Let’s say you do. Now, annoying as they may be, realize that legit telemarketers do often call in the evenings, because they expect you to be at home then. So assuming there’s such a thing when it comes to unexpected sales calls, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?

Red Flags

It’s a given that most telemarketers are going to want you to give them a credit card number over the phone if you decide to buy whatever they’re selling. Don’t do so unless you trust them absolutely, and know for certain that they’re legit. Even then, I’d think three times first, especially if they’re insistent about it.

Often, scammers try to get you to pay before you’ve even had a chance to carefully consider the offer. They may try to tell you that you don’t need to check with anyone before signing up, or that you don’t have to worry about references or written information about their company.

That’s when you know you should definitely hang up. Legitimate telemarketers will usually give you sufficient time to make a decision, and will accept your desire to check up on them. Nor will they balk when you tell them you’ll pay for services or goods only when you receive an official invoice in the mail.

You Might Be a Winner… Or Not

Some scammers don’t even try to sell you something, enticing you instead with a cool prize that you’ve somehow won. All you have to do, of course, is cover shipping and handling. Well, that S&H charge might be a lot more than you expect if you just hand over a credit card number or banking information.

Don’t fall for the old charity request scam, either.

What to Do If You Suspect a Scammer

At the very least, tell the caller “No thank you,” then hang up. Don’t bother listening to their reply. Just get off the line — and don’t accept any further communications from them. If you’re especially annoyed, you can report suspected telemarketing scams to your state attorney general, or the FBI.