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News State / Region Cooper weighs in on phone scams

If you’ve joined the Do Not Call Registry like millions of other North Carolinians, you probably get a lot fewer calls from telemarketers than you used to. While the Registry has helped cut down on unwanted calls, telemarketing scammers continue to try to find new ways to steal your money and your personal information.

One of the best ways to fight fraud is to help you learn how to avoid it. Below are some of the latest tricks we’re seeing telemarketers use to try to scam unsuspecting consumers.

Getting you to call them. Instead of calling you, some telemarketing scammers have figured out a way to get you to call them. Scammers who pitch bogus extended car warranties or promise toogood- to-be-true jobs as secret shoppers or overseas payment processors often operate this way. You’ll get a post card in the mail or an email encouraging you to call a number to learn more.

Tip: Don’t respond to the mailings or emails. Once you do, you’re likely to get more fraudulent offers.

Contacting you by text message.We’re seeing a dramatic rise in text messages sent to consumers, pitching things like payday loans. Many of the recent texts appear to come from California, but my Consumer Protection Division has traced some from England.

Tip: Payday loans are illegal in North Carolina, and they’re a bad credit option that can sink you deeper in debt. Never agree to pay an upfront fee to get any kind of loan or grant.

New ways to get you to send them money. For many years, most telemarketing scams tried to get you to wire money to them, often overseas. Of course, once victims send off their hard-earned money, it’s difficult if not impossible to get it back. To make it harder for scammers to rob consumers, we won important agreements with the major wire service companies and pressured payment processors to stop enabling the scam artists.

Now some scammers are trying to find other ways to get you to send them money. An elderly woman in eastern North Carolina recently sent $200,000 to London-based sweepstakes scammers via four direct bank-to-bank transfers. Another woman in the mountains shipped $18,000 in cash to Jamaican fraudsters via FedEx.

Tip: Never agree to wire, transfer or otherwise send money in order to claim a prize or sweepstakes winnings. Anyone who demands an advance fee for a prize is trying to scam you.

Threatening calls. Some consumers have reported that telemarketers have even threatened them or their loved ones with violence. The callers usually claim that the consumer owes money, but the debts are entirely bogus. In other cases, lottery and sweepstakes scammers threaten consumers if they stop sending money. The callers usually warn not to report their threats to anyone. One woman in central N.C. attempted to fight off the threat by saying she was headed to the police station for protection. The scammer said he would meet her at the police station and kill her and the police.

Tip: If a telemarketer ever threatens you with violence or frightens you, hang up and report the call immediately to law enforcement.

Help us keep up with the latest scams. If you spot a possible telemarketing scam, call my Consumer Protection Division toll-free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM, or file a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.

And if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for the Do Not Call Registry. To add your home and cell phone numbers to the list, just call 1-888-382-1222 from the number you’d like to register. You can also sign up online by visiting www.donotcall.gov.





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