While there are some legitimate businesses that use the telephone to sell their products, there are also many unscrupulous businesses that use telemarketing to swindle consumers out of millions of dollars every year. Dishonest telemarketers will say anything to get your money, including making false statements to you about their company, products and services. Dishonest telemarketers are often in violation of state or federal law, but may go out of business quickly before you obtain your merchandise or can get your money back.
Do Not Call
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) created the Do Not Call Registry to stop unwanted telemarketing calls. You can register your home or cellphone number either online at www.donotcall.gov or using the FTC’s toll number at (888) 382-1222, TTY: (866) 290-4236. You must call from the number you wish to register. Registration is free and never expires.
Arizona State Law
Arizona’s Telephone Solicitations Statute requires telemarketers to make certain disclosures and prohibits certain misrepresentations. The statute requires most telemarketers to file a registration statement with the Secretary of State and a bond with the State Treasurer’s Office. There are some exceptions to the statute’s registration requirements. You can visit the Secretary of State’s Web site at www.azsos.gov to check to see if a company is registered or falls under an exception to the registration requirement. The law also requires all telemarketing companies to tell their customers, both orally and in writing, that they have the right to cancel their order within three days after receiving the merchandise or any gifts or prizes, although many telemarketers do not comply with this law.
If you wish to cancel your order, make sure that you do so in writing within three days of placing your order (or, within three days of receiving the merchandise, although earlier is better) and keep a copy of your letter. You should also immediately contact your credit card company or debit card issuer to dispute the charges. You may need a copy of your letter to prove to your credit card company or debit card issuer that you cancelled within the required time period. It is important to contact your credit card company as soon as you realize there is a problem, as they will issue a credit only for a limited time.
Robocalls Or Prerecorded Messages
Federal laws that took effect in October 2013 require that a company must have your express written consent to contact you at home or on your cellphone with a prerecorded message or “robocall.” This new requirement removed exceptions for businesses that had a prior business relationship with you. It also requires that you be given the option to opt out on every prerecorded call you receive. Be careful not to give your written consent by accident, as it may be included in a form you fill out in order to win a prize, request more information from a company or in a form you use to place an order. You should not do business with a company that contacts you through a robocall without your express consent.
Business Opportunities Or Work-At-Home Schemes
The telemarketing of business opportunities or work-at-home schemes is a large problem. Few, if any, purchasers earn any income from the businesses for which they paid thousands of dollars. Some common schemes include offers to develop online “stores” where a customer can earn sales commissions, the sale of credit card processing services, or providing debt reduction services.
Unscrupulous telemarketers frequently use the following tactics:
- Use a fake caller identification number that appears to be local, a personal call or from a business that you recognize, and doesn’t work if you try to call back.
- A high-pressure sales approach, urging you to "act now" or the offer won't be available later.
- Falsely inform you that the marketer is a veteran, disabled, born-again Christian or has some other trait to convince you he or she is trustworthy.
- Offer you something that sounds too good to be true, such as a "no-risk investment" or the opportunity to make lots of income from home, with little effort on your part.
- Pretend to be licensed, certified, working for your credit card company or working for the government.
- Asking for your credit card or checking account numbers or other personal financial information, to verify your “eligibility” or check your available credit, before you have agreed to make a purchase, and then charging you without your agreement.
- Asking you to send money right away, through a wire service or overnight delivery. Fraudulent telemarketers will sometimes offer to pick up the money and the signed contract from your home.
What you can do to avoid being scammed:
- Check out a business by searching online for complaints about the business or call the Better Business Bureau to find out if there have been complaints.
- Check with a financial advisor, accountant or knowledgeable friend or relative who can help you research whether a business is reputable or a purchase or investment is a good decision before you make a purchase.
- Remember that most work-at-home business opportunities never make money for the purchasers, only for the sellers. If it were that easy or profitable, the telemarketers would do the work-at-home business themselves.
- Keep your financial information to yourself. Never give out credit card, checking or savings account information to anyone who calls you, as it is not difficult for someone with this data to draft money from your account.
- Ask the sales agent to mail you information about their product or services before you decide to buy. Legitimate companies should be happy to mail you a contract to review or a brochure about their product before you give them any payment information.
- Place your name on the national Do Not Call List.
- Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Hang up. A telemarketer has no right to your time or your money.
For more information, or if you believe you have been a victim of fraud, please contact the Attorney General's Office in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763; in Tucson at (520) 628-6504; or outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas at (800) 352-8431. Consumers can also file complaints online by visiting the Attorney General's Web site at www.azag.gov.