Each year, millions of Americans fall prey to telemarketing fraud at a cost of $40 billion. However, about eight of every 10 elderly people are targeted by telemarketing scams. To help you and your loved ones avoid becoming victims, Better Business Bureau says you need to do more than just hang up the phone.

HOW THE SCAM WORKS:

Telemarketing fraud occurs when a scam artist calls a person to misrepresent themselves with a product, service, prize winning, etc., that causes the victim to give money to the scammer, but never receives the promised item. Many times, consumers who become victims did so because they are trustworthy and then afraid or even embarrassed to report the crimes.

TIPS TO KEEP YOU SAFE FROM TELEMARKETING SCAMS:

Hang up right away. If you get a recording, don’t push any buttons, just hang up the phone. Pushing #1, probably isn’t removing you from their call list, but rather adding you to their potential victim list.

You didn’t actually win a contest or prize. Especially if you never entered the lottery in the first place and you are being requested to make any payment at all. Be wary of callers claiming you won a prize and then asking for a payment of any size. Prizes are free, so don’t pay for taxes or insurance, these are deducted from your winnings when it is legitimate.

Don’t give out personal information to someone on the phone unless you initiated the call and have checked out the person or agency.

Never wire money or give the numbers from the back of prepaid debit cards. These are a scammer’s choice of payment since it is like paying with cash and not able to be tracked or returned.

Beware of bad grammar. This can be a red flag that English is not the scammer’s first language.

Be cautious about foreign sweepstakes companies. Many fraudulent sweepstakes companies that target U.S. consumers are located in Canada or other countries which makes it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to pursue them.

Don’t believe everything you hear. Con artists use company names that are identical or very similar to well-known, legitimate companies. Tell them you’ll get back to them and contact the real company to ask if there’s a connection.

Request the offer in writing. Legitimate companies will give you written information about how an offer works.

Be wary of a check in the mail. If you were not expecting a check, chances are it is not going to be valid. If you are instructed to deposit the check and then wire any amount for any reason, don’t do it. If you are unsure, ask your bank for assistance.

Never rush a decision. A caller from a legitimate business will not put unrealistic time restrictions on a decision to be made.

Ask lots of questions. Do your own research on any business, contest or person selling you anything, especially if you sought you out. Also check with your Better Business Bureau at 330-454-9401 or bbb.org.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Remember, you can always help eliminate calls you don’t want by registering with the National Do Not Call Registry. Visit www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222. Also, if you feel you’ve been scammed, call the police or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov. You can also report it to the BBB’s new Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker.

[This article is re-published courtesy of the Canton Regional and Greater West Virginia Better Business Bureau as a public service.]