How To Guard Yourself From Telemarketing Fraud

So you’re still getting those calls.

How do they get your number? A stranger calls in a bad moment to sell a product you don’t need. As he presents how amazing the opportunity is, you’re just looking for the fastest way to get out of the phone. But will that solve your telemarketer issue?

They already have your number on your list, meaning they can call anytime or your familiars. Don’t you like their product? Perhaps you’ll like the next one, and the next one. 

You tried to reject politely, but now fifty different numbers call you every week. Marketers can sell contact lists to others, which is a matter of time a scammer hooks you with a deal.

We can’t generalize: telemarketers aren’t scammers. But a lot of these telemarketers focus their time only on marketing, not product quality, meaning you’d be overpaying for mediocre products. 

Don’t try to stop a telemarketing scam on the spot; they’re too convincing and you won’t think clearly. Instead, follow some simple steps to get rid of them.

What Is Telemarketing Fraud?

When was the last time you rationalized a product you didn’t need?

“It’s so cheap!” “It’s an 80% one-time discount!” “Buy one now and get the second for free!” “Look at all those testimonials.”

Notice how fraudulent sellers talk about the offer, not the product value. Telemarketing scams use a bunch of confidence tricks to make you overvalue (and buy) a product.

The problem? Telemarketers don’t care about what the thing is, but what do you make others believe that it is. Sounds familiar?

Get-rich-quick schemes use it all the time. They sell you the problem and the solution, then you see the five-star reviews rolling. You buy a useless package, and the only way to “get rich” is by selling the same package to another fool who believes it.

Wow, that’s a smart persuasion strategy. You still sell a mediocre product (everyone eventually finds out). Manipulating perception works for a quick cash grab, but it doesn’t sustain the business. In the long term, they always lose against customer-loyal brands.

Types Of Telemarketing Scams

Fraudulent telemarketers aren’t running a business: they just want your money. Telemarketers cost victims over $100 million a year, always using the newest methods.

#1 The Yes Scam

Simple rule, isn’t it? Never say yes to what the telemarketer sells. Any sign of interest could lead to dozens of weekly follow-ups. If you reject, they will eventually stop.

But saying “Yes” on a (recorded) call has more power than you think. the scammer starts with a closed question: “Can you hear me?” “Do you prefer to stop the call and reach out later?” “Do you agree with X?”

Answer any question with “Yes”, and fraudulent telemarketers can edit the recording to place another question before your response: “Do you wish to sign for this $67/mo program, no refunds available?”

You didn’t choose to take the offer, and they never told you. You find out yourself once the mystery charges appear on your phone bill.

#2 Phishing Robocalls

Not only they interrupt you. You don’t find a real person to talk to you. How do you expect the product to be of your fit if they can’t even listen to you on the phone?

With enough robocalls and thousands of calls per hour, someone will eventually fall for it. The pitch requires you to either press certain buttons or give your credit card numbers. Others will leave a voice message urging you to call them immediately. Sometimes, you’ll find an SMS instead, sending you to some phishing website

One may think that calls will stop after you buy their crappy product. To your surprise, you start getting more telemarketing calls because they think you’re a qualified buyer.

#3 Tech Support Scam

Someone will pose as a tech team member calling you to assist on some problem with your computer. “We are from Windows/Microsoft. We’ve studied the error you sent us and found a solution. Let me guide you through your computer.”

Yes, people keep falling for it. The elderly, for example. 

You never had any problem nor contacted tech support. They made up the story. First, they’ll send you to a page to prove that the error you have is real. Then, you go to another site with an adware that will “solve your problems instantly”.

After you install it, they leave the call and use the file to manipulate your computer: adware, spyware, ransomware.

As for ransomware, you could find a screen lock like:

“Your computer has stopped working. As a company, we need to disable permanently non-working devices. You have five days to send $250 to Microsoft Inc. to repair your computer remotely. Otherwise, you’ll lose the computer with the files.”

#4 Charity Scam

A dubious criminal telemarketer is trying to persuade the prospective victim to send money for a supposedly charitable cause. To make it seems more legitimate the victim may be told that they want to tape-record a brief message to the people who supposedly will benefit from the victim’s donation.

Victims of this scheme may also routinely receive prizes and products. These are of little or no value, but may reassure the person that they made a good decision to donate to what they believed was a legitimate charity.

#4 Rip-and-Tear

In this scheme, a criminal telemarketer tries to get the prospective victim to believe that she has won a substantial prize in the company’s sweepstakes. Then the victim is persuaded to send money in advance in order to receive the prize. Usually these “fees” are masqueraded as processing fees or taxes.

Like the charity scheme, this scheme involved an effort to obtain substantial amounts of money from victims. The victims receive nothing in return or are provided with items of little or no value.

Legit Telemarketer Or Scam?

Although most telemarketers sell things you don’t need, that doesn’t mean they’re all scams. Some have a valuable reason to contact while others just want to catch you.

When looking at impressions, recognizing a telemarketer scam only takes a few steps:

#1 They talk more than they listen

The logic behind it? Telemarketers believe people reject because they don’t know enough about the offer. So if they can talk more and faster, they’d win time to make the prospect think.

But it works the contrary. Who likes being pressured to buy a product you may not need? Scammers who use these tactics are trying to prevent you from thinking clearly and make mistakes.

Many use a free call service, meaning they keep calling you until you buy. Is their product so great? Do they care about you so much that they won’t let you go? No, the product is worth ten times less than their offer. No refunds, unfortunately.

Also, check our guide about payment fraud and how to avoid it.

#2 Today-Only Offer

People think differently when moving fast. A time-limited offer will unlikely reflect the real product value. Instead, you get trapped by marketing tactics: the pain of not buying becomes greater.

Suddenly, you’re trying to get a good deal instead of buying what you really need. Be aware of the $20-$50 impulse range, which is easy to justify with emotions. That’s why telemarketers sell for “three easy payments of $39,99.”

An aggressive salesman will make promises (even if they can’t offer it) so that you say Yes or create an appointment.

#3 Closed Questions

A sales conversation would go about: “What problem do you have?” “What would the best product look like for you?” “How important/urgent is it to you?”

You know it goes well when the client talks more than the sales rep. Sneaky telemarketers, however, focus on talking. They either make Yes-No or intrusive questions: “Would you afford this?” “Are you the decision-maker?” “How can’t you want this deal?”

Do the questions require you to say Yes often? Bogus agents can clip the recorded call and sign you for some program you didn’t want. “Can you hear me?” That’s enough to charge your phone.

#4 No Time To Think About It

Whether you need it or not, telemarketers want you to take action now. Leaving the call won’t stop them from calling again. What should you do?

If you’re going to listen, at least take time to research, consult, think about it. Especially with high-ticket products, it’s unrealistic to ask a stranger to close the deal. Don’t let time pressure lead to a regretful purchase.

Yet, some sales reps will tell you to buy now and think later because, well, it’s time-limited! You can always refund if you don’t like it later, but you can’t make an offer after it expires.

Unfortunately, most refunds are advance-fee scams. You pay for something you may not need, and the agent is gone forever, unreachable.

#5 Idealism

They say whatever they need to say to make you say Yes, which leads to a faulty proposition: “The product we sell is perfect.”

When a telemarketer rushes with an offer that’s too good to be true, all you’re thinking is: “Where’s the catch?” Scammers often focus on pros and skip the cons.

Because their product has no disadvantages, it means everyone should buy it. The moment you order the item (if you ever receive it!), you find a mediocre, generic, overpriced item.

How To Avoid Telemarketing Scams

In telemarketing, common sense can make things worse. When you get an unwanted call, you can get angry, tell them to call another day, or hang off the phone. Have we solved the problem?

We get rid of them temporarily, but nothing stops telemarketers from calling us again. Everybody gets these calls from time to time; here’s what you need to do to stop it.

#1 Know How To Interact

Saying you’re “not interested” isn’t enough. For telemarketers, it means you may be interested in something else, meaning they will keep calling day in, day out.

When they look at their contact lists, they evaluate the value of the lead, not the result itself:

  • If you hang on a call from a strange number immediately, they know you are receptive to calls.
  • If you hang off the call immediately or never answer, they’ll count it as “Disconnected” and call again later.

Also, don’t let politeness interfere with a direct message. Don’t tell them to call later when you don’t want to hear of them again. Don’t say “I’ll think about it” or “I’ll get back to you” instead of saying Yes or No. Marketers always follow up unless you give them an explicit direction.

Finish with: “Please, get me out of your contact list.” You don’t need them to approve it, and you don’t need to give any explanations. You have the right to do so, and companies can’t call you afterward.

#2 Block The Number

If these guys are still phoning you, block them. 

  • Register your number in the “Do-Not-Call” list
  • Blacklist the number, or install an app to do it automatically
  • If you know the company, ask support to remove you from their marketing list

If you aren’t expecting a call, you could turn off phone calls and avoid interruptions. A better idea: an app that cancels all calls coming from unknown numbers.

If you can’t block them or they use another number, try Android’s call assistant. This brilliant tool lets you know in real-time who the caller is and what they want before you talk to them.

Whenever you get an unknown call, you choose a question to ask, the other person responds, and Google transcribes the answer. Robocalls don’t respond to these messages, meaning you can instantly tell important calls from telemarketers. It saves a lot of time on awkward sales calls.

#3 Know How Good Telemarketers Behave

Despite the inconvenience, some people give these calls a second chance. They believe the person called them for a reason, and they see it rude to reject someone without hearing what they want first.

When you listen to a marketer, you look at the way they sell it rather than the offer itself. If they rush you with time-limited offers and whatnot, it sounds like a scam.

A good telemarketer is someone who:

  • Understands the person. “Is it a good time to talk?” “Am I catching you in a bad moment?” They don’t say: “Sorry for calling you” or “Give me a minute to introduce…”
  • Calls people who expect their call. In 2020, traditional marketing lacks efficiency. Today’s sales reps build rapport first, then close on the phone. Generating leads with phone calls and direct marketing is intrusive and low-converting. If the person knows about you, you don’t waste time on introductions or trying to get their attention.
  • Ask the right questions. Only crappy telemarketers start with: “How are you?” “How can I help you?” “Why aren’t you interested?” “Are you the decision marker?” “When should I call you back?”. 
  • Makes more questions than statements. A trained professional wants to know what you need, how urgently, and what you can afford. If you’re a good fit, they make the offer. The classic salesman will overuse sales pitches, whether you want the product or not. When to buy? Now. How much? As much as you can; it’s an “investment.” Beware.

Wrapping Up

Telemarketing works when done the right way. The next time you get a call from a strange company, don’t waste your time. Sales reps neither waste theirs by calling random people who don’t know them. Legit agents generally call to close deals, not to collect leads.

Some telemarketers use software to call millions of numbers at once for free. If you take preventive measures, you’ll stop those annoying spam calls.

Make sure to check out unfamiliar companies with your local consumer protection agencies, Better Business Bureau, state Attorney General, the National Fraud Information Center, or other watchdog groups. Unfortunately, not all bad businesses can be identified through these organizations.

Therefore you should research the company online as well and take your time before making a decision on any offer. Legitimate companies with a valuable offer won’t pressure you into making a quick transaction.

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