Do you know that phrase – “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is?”
That’s a good phrase to remember when you pick up your phone these days. North Reading residents have reported a number of scams to police.
Just over the past week, residents have reported receiving calls about winning a new car and winning “a big prize.” The catch is the caller asks the person to send money in order to receive the prize.
But it’s not even solely through the phone that scammers try to steal money. One resident reported over the past week that she received a bill for $89. The company’s return address was in the Czech Republic.
Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission about how to handle an unexpected sales call…
When you get a call from a telemarketer, ask yourself:
- Who’s calling…and why? The law says telemarketers must tell you it’s a sales call, the name of the seller and what they’re selling before they make their pitch. If you don’t hear this information, say “no thanks,” and get off the phone.
- What’s the hurry? Fast talkers who use high pressure tactics could be hiding something. Take your time. Most legitimate businesses will give you time and written information about an offer before asking you to commit to a purchase.
- If it’s free, why are they asking me to pay? Question fees you need to pay to redeem a prize or gift. Free is free. If you have to pay, it's a purchase — not a prize or a gift.
- Why am I “confirming” my account information — or giving it out at all? Some callers have your billing information before they call you. They’re trying to get you to say “okay” so they can claim you approved a charge.
- What time is it? The law allows telemarketers to call between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. A seller calling earlier or later is flouting the law.
- Do I want more calls like this one? If you don’t want a business to call you again, say so and register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. If they call back, they’re breaking the law.
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 wire money rather than a credit card in the transaction, 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 unsolicited 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 saying they are law enforcement officers who will help you get your money back “for a fee” are scammers.
- Say “no thanks” and hang up the phone. If you don’t want a business to call you again, say so. If they call back, they’re breaking the law.
- 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 are likely to be from scammers ignoring the law.
- 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.