Has your quiet evening or dinner been interrupted by frequent calls from telemarketers? Telemarketing and Do Not Call complaints are among the highest number of complaints the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services receives each year. For the last four years, these complaints have been the top one and two areas of consumer complaints.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, telemarketing fraud robs Americans of more than $40 billion dollars annually. As the state’s leading consumer protection agency, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) actively investigates telemarketing fraud and works to protect consumers through public education and consumer outreach. The more the public is informed about telemarketing fraud, the less likely they will fall victim to this faceless crime.
Who is at Risk?
Victims of telemarketing fraud belong to all social and economic classes and age groups. In fact, a survey conducted on behalf of the National Consumers League found that 92% of adults reported receiving a fraudulent telemarketing call. The most common method of telemarketing fraud is "cold calling," where the scammer obtains your number from a directory, a mailing list or a "sucker list" (lists that are bought and sold containing key information about people who have responded to previous solicitations).
Tip-offs that the Caller Might be Unscrupulous
- High pressure sales tactics, especially when the caller insists on an immediate decision.
- A statement that something is “free” followed by a requirement that you pay for something.
- An offer that sounds too good to be true.
Avoid Becoming a Victim
When dealing with telemarketers keep these tips in mind:
- Before any purchase is made, research whether the telemarketer or telemarketing salesperson is registered with FDACS and if there have been any complaints filed against them. This can be done by utilizing the “Business/Complaint Lookup” at www.800helpfla.com or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) and asking a member of our Consumer Assistance Center staff.
- Don’t give out your bank account, credit card or personal information (date of birth, mother’s maiden name, Social Security number, etc.) over the telephone, unless it is to a known and trusted source.
Protect Yourself From Unwanted Sales Calls
Subscribe to the Florida Do Not Call Program online at www.800helpfla.com or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352). There is no longer a cost to consumers for this service. If you subscribe, your residential and/or cell phone number will be placed on the list for a period of five (5) years.
Most telemarketers are prohibited from calling any phone number on the list. However there are some exemptions. Solicitors may make calls when a prior or existing business relationship exists, in response to an express request of the person called, in connection with an existing debt or contract or when a real estate agent responds to a yard sign or other advertisement
Report Telemarketing Scams
Fraudulent telemarketers should be reported to both FDACS and the Federal Trade Commission. To file a complaint or for more information on telemarketing, visit us online at www.800helpfla.com or call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) from within Florida, 850-410-3800 from outside of Florida or 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352- 9832) en Español, and a member of our Consumer Assistance Center will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have or direct you to the best resource for assistance. Remember, an informed consumer is the best defense against fraud and deception!