Telemarketing Fraud: 3 Things You Need to Know

woman on phone
May 29th, 2014

Updated October 2021

What is telemarketing fraud?

Telemarketing fraud occurs whenever someone tries to get you to part with your money or personal information, including account numbers, your Social Security Number and other vital data.

How can I spot potential telemarketing fraud?

The FBI has identified warning signs that a caller may be trying to commit telemarketing fraud:

  • Creating urgency: “You must act now” or “You can’t afford to miss this high-profit, no-risk offer”
  • Requesting payment: “You’ve won a free gift, vacation, or prize but have to pay for postage and handling or other charges” or “You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number or have a check picked up by a courier.”
  • Applying pressure: “You don’t need to check out the company with anyone, including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection agency” or “You don’t need any written information about the company or their references.”

The Bureau recommends that you say, “no thank you” and hang up when you hear anything like these lines.

What are some telemarketing fraud scheme examples?

One common scam targeting seniors and other vulnerable groups offers “free” medical alert devices or similar products. The caller might say that the product has already been purchased on your behalf by a friend or family member but to deliver the device they need a payment, or to activate the service, you need to pay a monthly fee.

In another common scam, the caller claims to be a representative of the Medicare office to verify your Social Security number or needs your bank account data to set up direct deposit. If you receive a call like this, hang up and call the number found on the back of your Medicare card. You can then verify if there is anything they need from you.

How can I avoid being a victim of telemarketing fraud?

The easy answer is to stay calm and keep your personal and financial information private. Do not give out your Social Security, Medicare or credit card number to anyone over the phone. The FBI also recommends these practices:

  • Don’t buy from businesses you don’t know.
  • Don’t pay in advance for services.
  • Be wary of any caller who offers to send someone to your home to pick up a payment.
  • Don’t pay for anything related to “a free prize.”
  • Always talk over large payments or investment opportunities with a trusted friend, family member or financial advisor.
  • Don’t respond to offers you don’t fully understand.

Remember that just because a caller sounds friendly or trustworthy doesn’t mean they are. Now that you know their tactics, you can outsmart them and reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud.