Many scams take place over the phone. In this article, you’ll find useful information on telemarketing fraud, including how to recognize it, how to protect yourself, and how cases of telemarketing fraud are prosecuted.
How to Recognize Telemarketing Fraud
At its core, telemarketing fraud is a pretty simple crime: someone calls the victim, makes a false statement, and the misrepresentation causes the victim to give money to the caller. This definition can cover a large variety of scams. Sometimes, victims are told that they won a prize in a foreign lottery and their personal information is required to receive the prize. In another example, the scammer calls the victim, claiming to be from an anti-virus software company, and convinces the victim to allow the caller to access his or her computer in order to rid it of a fictional virus. Once the scammer has the victim’s personal information, he can use it to access the victim’s bank accounts.
Given the wide variety of telemarketing schemes, it can be hard to recognize, and even harder to protect yourself against, fraud. However, there are a few easy and sensible things you can do:
- Register your home and mobile phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry. Telemarketers aren’t allowed to call people on this registry, so if you get such a phone call, you’ll know immediately that it’s a scam.
- If the phone call otherwise violates the rules for telemarketing – such as calling too early or too late, or failing to identify the origin of the call – then it’s probably a scammer. Hang up and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Never give out personal information, such as your social security number or bank account number, to a telemarketer. If you’re interested in the caller’s offer, request information to be sent in the mail so that you can make a decision later. Most legitimate companies will be happy to do this for you.
- Don’t feel pressured to make any decisions right away. One favorite tactic of telemarketers is to rush the decision to make you more likely to give into the scheme. If you start to feel pressured, simply hang up.
How Telemarketing Fraud is Prosecuted
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for prosecuting telemarketing fraud. After a complaint is filed, the FTC investigates the complaint and decides whether or not a violation has occurred. If so, the FTC will start adjudication proceedings within the commission itself. Its decision can then be appealed to the US Court system. Each state also has its own telemarketing statutes, and can prosecute under those statutes. However, most telemarketing fraud is committed across state lines, so the FTC is often the best organization to handle complaints.
Take a look at FindLaw’s sections on financial crimes and crimes against property to learn about related offenses.