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Telemarketing fraud in conversation once again

Telephone fraud is on the rise once again.

Sun Advocate editor

Telemarketing represents a steadily growing industry at locations across Utah and throughout the nation. But Carbon County residents should weigh the convenience of purchasing or investing via the telephone with the potential risks of falling victim to fraud.

Although the majority of the companies operate legitimately, the Utah Division of Consumer Protection cautions Carbon County residents that national data indicate Americans lose an estimated $40 billion annually to telemarketing fraud.

The fraudulent schemes in question range from peddling water purifiers, vitamins and make-up kits to promoting questionable stock investments and enticing consumers to dial abusive 900 numbers. Con artists and swindlers frequently rely on the telephone as an effective "weapon" to hold up victims, pointed out the state agency.

Utah statute protects consumers from unscrupulous telemarketers and scams as well as legitimate businesses, explained the agency. State law requires telemarketers conducting business at locations across Utah to obtain a minimum of $25,000 bond, a certificate of deposit or a letter of credit to pay restitution for victims in the event telephone fraud occurs. In addition, state statute provides enforcement powers to the consumer protection division.

According to the state agency, the top telephone scams currently include free prize offers, charitable solicitations, bogus travel promotions, investment fraud, 900 numbers, advance fee loans and credit repair schemes.

Generally, unscrupulous telemarketers fail to outline the conditions attached to the free prize offers and travel promotions. Examples of the frequently undisclosed information include handling or processing fees, shipping charges, membership costs or the required purchase of merchandise.

To alleviate the potential danger of becoming a victim of fraudulent telemarketing activities, the division advises Carbon County residents to:

•Be extremely leery of investing with strangers via the telephone.

•Refuse to cave in to high pressure sales tactics and demand precise information regarding a company's policy on canceling purchase orders.

•Insist that solicitors provide the name, address and telephone number of the company for whom they work prior to listening to sales pitches.

•Check with the division to confirm that telemarketers, solicitors and charitable organizations are legally registered to conduct business in Utah.

•Verify exactly what telemarketers are attempting to sell or promote.

•Never hesitate to ask the solicitor to repeat or clarify information.

•Exercise extreme caution before opting to give credit card numbers over the telephone.

Consumers require accurate information in order to make sound decisions. Reputable telemarketers never hedge about answering questions and providing registration, permit, charitable organization and company information, concluded the consumer protection division.

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