Ah, telemarketing. That oldie and not-so-goodie. You’re just about to sit down to dinner when someone calls with a hot stock tip or asks you to make a donation in support of firefighters. Pesky telemarketers have been around almost as long as the telephone, so we’re used to ignoring them. And yet the calls keep coming, which suggests that some people are still falling for the spiel.
Since the creation of the national Do Not Call Registry (see “Protecting Yourself”), calls from legitimate businesses have tapered off, making it easier to identify the shady calls, which are most of them. Examples of telemarketing fraud are bogus calls on behalf of real charities, medical insurance or prescription discounts, investment opportunities, mortgage relief, and employment assistance. As with all scams, the intent is to get you to pay something for nothing or to acquire information which will allow them to steal your identity and run up debts in your name.
Automated or “robo” calls are used increasingly to reach a large number of people at once. Recordings promising lower credit card interest rates lead to conversations with a live representative who offers to negotiate a lower interest rate with your credit card company on your behalf. This “negotiation,” which you can do yourself for free, will cost you $700.
People who have been victimized once can be burned again, in a process known as “reloading.” Reloaders contact victims of fraud, claiming to be from a government agency or consumer organization, and offer to help them regain their lost money. Of course, this help does not come free, but it’s not until they’ve paid up that the targets realize they’ve been double scammed. Reloading also works by offering some incentive to the victim to continue paying, a kind of “double or nothing” deal. This applies to lottery and prize fraud, where the individual is told that by purchasing a ticket or some merchandise, they have a chance to win a large jackpot. When that money is gone, a reloader may call and tell the person that their chances of winning will increase if they make an additional purchase.