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GCP Week Targets Telemarketing Fraud
Sweepstakes, warranty cards and charitable requests all provide ways for fraudulent telemarketers to get your name and phone number. This year's Georgia Consumer Protection Week, Feb. 4-8, focuses on limiting the damage these scoundrels cause.

"Telemarketing fraud tends to target older adults," said Michael Rupured, co-chair of Georgia's Consumer Fraud Task Force.

Rupured, a consumer economics specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences, said the frauds who do these things are pros.

Telemarketing Frauds Are Pros

"They quickly assess your vulnerabilities," he said. "They're so good they can persuade people who know better to give out credit card information for bogus products."

Nationally, telemarketing fraud is one of the top consumer fraud complaints. These scams bilk Americans of $40 billion each year. They cost Georgians as much as $500 million.

One of the GCPW goals this year is to get more people to join the Georgia No Call List. More than 280,000 Georgians have paid the $5 it takes to be placed on the list. The GNCL notifies telemarketers nationwide of people who don't want to get calls.

Join 'No Call List'

"Joining the 'No Call List' helps stop this sort of fraud before it starts," Rupured said. Charities and businesses with which you already have a relationship are exempt from the list.

A number of groups are working with the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs on the issue. UGA Extension Service FACS county agents, agencies on aging and AARP chapters all have videos, brochures and leaders' guides they can use to teach Georgians about telemarketing fraud and how to prevent it.

"Telemarketing fraud is still a major problem in Georgia and across the country," said GOCA administrator Barry Reid. "Not only do the criminals seek money from their victims under false pretenses, but they also seek personal information so they can take over their victims' bank accounts, create new bank accounts, make charges on credit cards or open charge accounts, all using the name and good credit of the victim."

How to Recognize Fraud

The eight-page brochure tells how to recognize fraud. It shows, too, how to keep legitimate companies from including your name in subscription lists they sell to potential marketers. It also explains how to check references and lists questions to ask telemarketers to find out if they're legitimate.

The brochure details some of the more common types of telemarketing fraud, such as prize offers, lotteries, disaster-related solicitations, investments and travel packages.

Senior centers and nursing homes will have programs, and Rupured has a series of one-page fact sheets that will go to Meals on Wheels recipients in some parts of the state.

Shut-ins a Key Target

"Shut-ins are a key target audience for fraudulent telemarketers," he said. "We want to give them the information they need to avoid this crime."

"As with most crimes, the best cure for the growing disease of consumer fraud is prevention," said Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox. "That's why educational campaigns like Georgia Consumer Protection Week are invaluable tools to help Georgians make wise decisions in the marketplace and avoid falling prey to scam artists."

To be placed on the Georgia No Call List, call toll-free 1-877-426-6225. Or visit www.ganocall.com. To get the telemarketing fraud education materials, call GOCA at (404) 656-4482. Or call your UGA Extension county office.

(Denise Horton is a contracted writer for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Office of Global Programs.)

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