Are you tired of getting telemarketing calls even though your number is on the national Do-Not-Call registry, or of running to pick up the phone only to be greeted by a pre-recorded sales pitch? You’re not alone. Our annual survey of state and local consumer protection agencies revealed that Do-Not-Call violations and other telemarketing abuses were the fastest-growing complaints they received in 2013.
Technology is a major factor: Internet phone service, Caller ID spoofing software, prepaid cell phones that scammers buy anonymously and discard, and auto-dialers make it easy and inexpensive for crooks to contact U.S. consumers from anywhere in the world. And to pay for these tools of the trade, fraudsters sometimes use stolen credit card account numbers that they buy on the cheap from hackers.
In the survey, which Consumer Federation of America conducts in partnership with the North American Consumer Protection Investigators, the worst complaints last year involved scams of all kinds against the elderly. These stories are heartbreaking, because when older people lose their life savings, it’s often difficult for them to recover, financially and emotionally.
The top ten complaints to state and local consumer agencies in 2013 were:
How can you protect yourself? Advice is provided for each of the complaint examples in the survey report. You’ll find it at www.consumerfed.org/fraud, along with videos and tips from CFA about how to recognize and avoid various types of scams. There is also a guide to your telemarketing rights and where to report violations. Remember, if someone is calling in violation of your rights, it’s a scam. Legitimate telemarketers follow the rules – crooks don’t.