Are You A Target Of...Telephone Scams?


If you're age 60 or older, you may be a special target for people who sell bogus products and services by phone.

It's easy enough to fall prey to their sales pitch. Telemarketing fraud is a multi-billion dollar business in the United States. Every year, thousands of consumers lose from a few dollars to their life savings to telephone con artists.

That's why the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) encourages you to be skeptical when you hear a phone solicitation and to be aware of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, a new law that can help you protect yourself from abusive and deceptive telemarketers.


How Older People Become Victims of Telemarketing Fraud

Fraudulent telemarketers try to take advantage of older people on the theory that they may be more trusting and polite toward strangers. Older women living alone are special targets of these scam artists.

Here are some reasons older people become victims of telemarketing fraud:




Common Telephone Scam

Con artists never run out of scams. Have you heard any of these?



Tip-Offs to Phone Fraud

Telephone con artists spend a lot of time polishing their "lines" to get you to buy. You may hear this:

If you hear these--or similar--"lines" from a telephone salesperson, just say "no thank you," and hang up the phone.



The Telemarketing Sales Rule

The FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule requires telemarketers to make certain disclosures and prohibits certain misrepresentations. It gives you the power to stop unwanted telemarketing calls and gives state law enforcement officers the authority to prosecute fraudulent telemarketers who operate across state lines.


The Rule covers most types of telemarketing calls to consumers, including calls to pitch goods, services, "sweepstakes," and prize promotion and investment opportunities. It also applies to calls consumers make in response to postcards or other materials received in the mail.


Keep this information near your telephone. It can help you determine if you're talking with a scam artist or a legitimate telemarketer.




Exceptions to the Rule

While most types of telemarketing calls are covered by the Rule, there are exceptions. The Rule does not cover:


What You Can Do To Protect Yourself

It's very difficult to get your money back if you've been cheated over the phone. Before you buy anything by telephone, remember:




For More Help

Before you buy from an unfamiliar organization, check it out with some of these groups. Your local phone directory has phone numbers and addresses.


Call for Action
5272 River Road, Suite 300
Bethesda, MD


State Attorney General

Better Business Bureau

Local consumer protection organization

National Charities Information Bureau
19 Union Square West
New York, NY 10003-3395

To stop unwanted telephone sales calls from many national marketers, send your name, address, and telephone number to:

Direct Marketing Association
Telephone Preference Service
P.O. Box 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014

Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, you can ask that companies put you on their "do not call" lists. If the company calls you again, you can bring action in Small Claims Court.


For More Information

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.