Every year, thousands of people lose money to telephone scams-from a few dollars to their life savings. Scammers will say anything to cheat people out of money. Some seem very friendly-calling you by your first name, making small talk, and asking about your family. They may claim to work for a company you trust, or they may send mail or place ads to convince you to call them.
If you get a call from someone you don’t know who is trying to sell you something you hadn’t planned to buy, say "No thanks." And, if they pressure you about giving up personal information-like your credit card or Social Security number-it’s likely a scam. Hang up and report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
Signs of a Scam
Often, scammers who operate by phone don’t want to give you time to think about their pitch; they just want you to say "yes." But some are so cunning that, even if you ask for more information, they seem happy to comply. They may direct you to a website or otherwise send information featuring “satisfied customers.” These customers, known as shills, are likely as fake as their praise for the company.
Here are a few red flags to help you spot telemarketing scams. If you hear a line that sounds like this, say "no, thank you," hang up, and file a complaint with the FTC:
• You've been specially selected (for this offer).
• You'll get a free bonus if you buy our product.
• You've won one of five valuable prizes.
• You've won big money in a foreign lottery.
• This investment is low risk and provides a higher return than you can get anywhere else.
• You have to make up your mind right away.
• You trust me, right?
• You don't need to check our company with anyone.
• We'll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card.
Some Additional Guidelines
• Resist pressure to make a decision immediately.
• Keep your credit card, checking account, or Social Security numbers to yourself. Don't tell them to callers you don't know-even if they ask you to “confirm” this information. That's a trick.
• Don’t pay for something just because you’ll get a “free gift.”
• Get all information in writing before you agree to buy.
• Check out a charity before you give. Ask how much of your donation actually goes to the charity. Ask the caller to send you written information so you can make an informed decision without being pressured, rushed, or guilted into it.
• If the offer is an investment, check with your state securities regulator to see if the offer-and the offeror-are properly registered.
• Don’t send cash by messenger, overnight mail, or money transfer. If you use cash or a money transfer-rather than a credit card-you may lose your right to dispute fraudulent charges. The money will be gone.
• Don’t agree to any offer for which you have to pay a “registration” or “shipping” fee to get a prize or a gift.
• Research offers with your consumer protection agency or state Attorney General’s office before you agree to send money.
• Beware of offers to “help” you recover money you have already lost. Callers that say they are law enforcement officers who will help you get your money back “for a fee” are scammers.
• Report any caller who is rude or abusive, even if you already sent them money. They'll want more. Call 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit ftc.gov/complaint.
Join the National Do Not Call List
Register your home and mobile phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry. This won’t stop all unsolicited calls, but it will stop most.
If your number is on the registry and you still get calls, they’re probably from scammers ignoring the law. Hang up, and report them at www.donotcall.gov.