Telemarketing Complaints Are on the Rise

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Telemarketing Complaints Are on the Rise

Technology is making it cheaper and easier to target consumers with phone scams. Here's how to fight back.

Among the tens of thousands of complaints logged by state and local consumer protection agencies in 2013, the fastest-growing area of concern is related to telemarketing abuses including violations of do-not-call rights, according to the latest Consumer Complaint Survey Report issued by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI). The most common consumer gripes were unchanged from the previous year -- complaints related to auto sales and repairs, home improvement and construction, and credit and debt issues -- but it's telemarketers who are increasingly drawing the ire of consumers.

SEE ALSO: Is Your Identity at Risk?

Blame technology. ID spoofing software has made it easier for scammers to make calls anonymously or make it appear as though their calls are coming from a legitimate organization. They also are able to reach millions of potential victims by using auto-dialers, according to CFA and NACPI. Internet phone services allow cheap calls to be made from anywhere in the world.

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Bona fide telemarketers generally follow the rules and respect the wishes of consumers who add phone numbers to the national do-not-call registry; scammers don't. Phone scams often involve efforts to get consumers to part with their cash or personal information. According to the CFA, there are several signs of telemarketing fraud:

-- Pressure to act immediately;
-- Requests for cash (usually in the form of a wire transfer) to enter a sweepstakes, to claim winnings or to pay an overdue tax, utility or other bill;
-- Offers to help get a loan, settle debts or get money lost to a scam if you pay a fee in advance;
-- Guarantees that you can make big returns on a financial investment with little or no risk.


The CFA has a guide to understanding your telemarketing rights that can help you recognize when a call is a scam. And see What You Need to Know About Phone Scams to detect and deflect ID-theft attacks on your phone.

To learn more about the latest efforts to rip off consumers, see our special report on scams. If you do have a consumer complaint and need help getting a resolution, follow these tips from the CFA.

1. Be prepared. Have documents, such as receipts or contracts, to prove that you purchased a product or received a service. Know what type of resolution you would accept: replacement item, money back, store credit and so on.

2. Contact the seller, service provider or manufacturer. Call first and ask for an appointment with the appropriate person who can hear your complaint. Explain the problem politely. If that person doesn't resolve the problem to your satisfaction, ask to speak to that person's supervisor.


3. Put it in writing. If the merchant doesn't resolve your complaint, write a letter with your name, address, phone number and brief statement of the problem and what you've already done to resolve it. Tell the merchant or service provider what you want done and give a reasonable time period for a response. Keep copies of all correspondence.

4. Get help from a government or nonprofit agency. The Better Business Bureau can help negotiate a solution (but it can't force members to resolve complaints). Or you could complain to the appropriate business regulator (a contractor's licensing board, state securities division or state insurance regulator), a local or state consumer-affairs bureau, or your state attorney general's office.

5. Go to court. If all else fails, file a claim in small-claims court or pursue a civil suit.