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Telemarketing cons rob consumers of over #036;1.5 billion annually

While laws exist to protect consumers, they lose more than $1.

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

While laws exist to protect consumers, they lose more than $1.5 billion each year to telemarketers running con games.

"And, these things are occurring in Lawrence County as well," said Sheriff Tim Sexton.

Sexton said he’s personally investigated an $80,000 theft committed by fraud, and there have been reports recently about a telephone scam from Canada.

Callers claiming they’re in that country tell residents they have won lots of money but must pay a fee or "international taxes" to collect their winnings.

Regardless of how the caller may characterize it, under Ohio law it is illegal for any salesperson to require you pay any fee to win or be eligible to win, Sexton said.

Such scams are a warning that consumers should be on their toes when answering the phone because "what these people do best is talk," said David M. Kessler, chief investigator for Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery.

Kessler, who presented a fraud seminar in the county last week, said con artists lie, so it’s important to report suspected fraud and follow guidelines prepared by law enforcement officials, like the local sheriff’s department.

Sexton said his department has prepared pamphlets that will be handed out throughout the county. The pamphlet lists the following tips to avoid telemarketing fraud:

– Do not give checking or savings account information to anyone over the phone.

– Do not give credit card numbers over the phone unless you know the organization is reputable.

– Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics, such as prizes, awards and deals that are only available if you "act right away."

– Request written information from any organization soliciting you over the phone; and if you receive this information, have a trusted person review the documents with you.

– Avoid the seller using expressions such as "only good for today" and "you must pay in advance."

– Avoid the demanding and high-pressure sales person.

– If in doubt, hang up the phone immediately. Do not be yelled at, cursed at, or even threatened. Hang up the phone.

Also, the caller states they are calling for a charitable organization, here are some more tips:

– Ask "what percentage of your donation will the charity receive?"

– Ask the caller if their company is registered with the Ohio Attorney General. State law requires this is soliciting for a charitable cause.

– If the caller cannot answer your questions, ask that the information be mailed. Explain you will review the mailing and make your decision.

– Do not make a donation if guaranteed to win a prize or a courier is going to pick up your donation.