En español | The caller had offered a great deal. For a deposit of only $188, AARP member Tim Haynes of Chapin, S.C., saved 50 percent on a $1,000 Caribbean cruise. But months later, when he tried to reschedule the trip, he figured out that the pitchman was a crook, the cruise line didn't exist and he'd been scammed.
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With no company to challenge and the money trail cold, it was no longer a case for a consumer advocate, but rather the district attorney.
Of course, it's not Tim's fault that he was ripped off. Telemarketing fraud is a disease of the modern age, accounting for 19 percent of all fraud complaints reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2010. Many of those 84,075 victims, including Tim, could have better protected themselves against telephone fraud by remembering a few basic rules.
1. Don't Call Me. The first rule of telemarketing safety is to ignore pleas and pitches of anyone who calls you uninvited, including sales people, charities and even companies with whom you already do business. You have no way to confirm they are who they say they are. Don't rely on your caller ID, either. That can be faked.
2. Give Them Nothing. Fraudsters are hunting for information. Your best defense is to tell them nothing, and I mean nothing. If they try to confirm your name, don't tell them. If they ask if your spouse is home, don't reply. If they want to verify your address, hang up. Any bit of information you give to scammers, including even your name, can be a tool they use to part you from your money or otherwise harm you.