As part of National Consumer Protection Week, the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana is working to help the elderly in our area learn how to fight telemarketing fraud.  Consumers lose more than $40 billion each year to telemarketing fraud.

The BBB reports that people over 50 are especially vulnerable.  They say a study by the American Association of Retired Persons shows this age group accounts for about 56 percent of all victims.

The Better Business Bureau says often older people are targeted for fraud because they are more likely to be trusting and polite to strangers.  They say scams come in all forms like bogus prize offers, phony travel packages, get-rich-quick schemes and fake charities.  The BBB says scammers are skilled liars who work really hard at what they do, and because of that, consumers can sometimes have a really hard time seeing through their scams.

So how can you protect yourself or your loved ones? The BBB suggests:

  • Avoiding prize winnings or offerings from Canada, Jamaica or overseas as many current scams, U.S. law enforcement reports, are coming from these areas targeting the elderly are originating from these locations, as they are out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement.
  • High pressure sales pitches such as “You must act now or the offer will expire.”
  • You’ve won a “free” gift, vacation or prize-but you must pay taxes or some other charge.
  • You must send money by Western Union, give a credit card or bank account number or have your check picked up by courier before you’ve had a chance to consider the offer carefully.
  • They tell the elderly that It’s not necessary to check out the company with a family lawyer, accountant, the local Better Business Bureau or the State Attorney General or Federal Trade Commission.
  • Elderly residents are told they don’t need written information about the company or its references.
  • Seniors are told they can’t afford to miss this “high-profit, no-risk” offer.

The Better Business Bureau says one way you can fight a fraudulent telemarketers is to know your rights.  Federal law protects citizens against scams by having several rules:

  • It’s illegal for a telemarketer to call you if you have asked not to be called.
  • Calling times are restricted to the hours between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • If it’s a prize promotion, they must tell you that you don’t have to pay or buy anything to enter or win.
  • Telemarketers may not lie about any information, including any facts about their goods or services, the earnings potential, profitability, risk or liquidity of an investment, or the nature of a prize in a prize promotion scheme.
  • Before you pay, telemarketers must tell you the total cost of the goods and any restrictions on getting or using them, or that a sale is final or non-refundable. In a prize promotion, they must tell you the odds of winning, that no purchase or payment is necessary to win and any restrictions or conditions of receiving the prize.
  • Telemarketers may not withdraw money from your checking account without your express, verifiable authorization.
  • Telemarketers cannot lie to get you to pay.

The Better Business Bureau suggests that you or your loved one work on the responses now that you will give to someone you don't want to talk to. Tell elderly family members and friends to simply say, “I’m not interested. Please remove me from your call list. Thank you and goodbye,” then hang up with no further discussion.

The BBB of Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.