Every year, illegal telemarketing and mail fraud schemes rob consumers of their hard-earned life-savings.
Last year the Federal Trade Commission received over 1.3 million consumer complaints with reported losses of $1.7 trillion dollars. Thirty-eight percent of the complaints were made by people 50+. And Washington state ranks 7th in the nation for fraud complaints.
While scammers are using technology such as email and the Internet, many still use the mail to target their victims with offers of prizes, sweepstakes, lotteries, foreign money offers and counterfeit check scams.
Ask yourself these questions before you decide to enter a sweepstakes or mail your money in response to a telemarketing offer:
- Do I have to pay to receive the "prize" or enter a sweepstakes? You should never have to pay to receive a prize or enter a sweepstakes contest. If you do, it's illegal.
- Am I a "guaranteed" winner or told "no risk is involved?" If you're told you're a guaranteed prize winner or that there's no risk involved, be skeptical.
- Is the lottery offer from a foreign country? Any lottery that involves a foreign country and is conducted through the mail is illegal.
- Charity or sweepstakes–or both? "By returning your entry form, you could be the winner of $20,000 cash!" These are charity sweepstakes. Legitimate charities don't ask for donations in conjunction with a contest. The problem is that many phony charities use names that sound or look like respected organizations.
- Am I pressured into responding right away? Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision. Get all information in writing before you agree to enter a contest, make a purchase, or give a donation.
- Do I have to give any personal or financial information? Don't give your financial information – Social Security number, credit card, or bank account numbers–to callers you don't know. If it's a reputable group, this information won't be requested.
Protect your privacy. Our economy generates an enormous amount of data. Most users of our data are from businesses with legitimate purposes. Despite the benefits of the “information age,” some consumers want to limit the amount of personal information they share or have better control over their personal information. Learn more about the options you have for protecting your personal information by contacting the following organizations.
Stop Unsolicited Prescreened Offers of Credit and Insurance
You have two choices: You can opt out of receiving the offers for five years or permanently. Call 1-888-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) or opt out online.
Stop Telemarketing Calls – Sign Up for Do Not Call
The Federal Government created the Do Not Call Registry to reduce the telemarketing calls you get at home. Call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you want to register, or register online.
Report Mail Fraud
File a report with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service on mail theft, mail fraud, identity theft, vandalism (to your mail receptacle), tampering (mail that was handled destructively), false change of address, or unsolicited sexually oriented advertising. Call toll free 1-877-876-2455 or report online.
Stop Direct Mail Marketing
The Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service lets you opt out of receiving direct mail marketing from many national companies for five years. Register online.
Order Your Free Annual Credit Reports
You have the right to get a free copy of your credit report once every twelve months, from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. Call 1-77-322-8228 or register online.