As part of its educational efforts during National Consumer Protection Week, Feb. 14-20, the Nevada Attorney General's Office gave examples of some of the most common telephone scams:
- Sweepstakes or prize offers that say you must first pay a fee before collecting your "free" prize or winnings: If you are asked to send money, buy something, give a credit card or checking account number, or attend a sales presentation before you can collect your prize, it's generally a sign that the prize is bogus. Often, the person who falls prey to this deception will either receive nothing, or the prize will be worthless or overpriced.
- 809 or 900 Area Code: You receive a message on your answering machine, on your pager or an e-mail asking you to call a telephone number that has an 809 or 900 area code. These area codes connect the victim to a pay-per-call line that could end up costing the caller a bundle.
The 809 area code call connects the caller to the Caribbean. A 900 call is an expensive toll call that can cost more than twenty dollars. Before returning a call to an unfamiliar area code, check the front of your phone book for the location, so you will know if you are actually making a call out of the country. If you are billed for one of these calls, call your local phone company and report that you may have been the victim of a fraud.
- Travel packages: "Free" or "low-cost" vacations can end up costing a bundle in hidden costs, or, they may never happen. The total cost may run two to three times more than what you'd expect to pay or what you were led to believe. Be sure to check out the company with the Better Business Bureau or Consumer Affairs before signing up for one of these vacation packages.
- Investments: Every year, people lose millions of dollars to "get rich quick" schemes that promise high returns with little or no risk. These can include gemstones, rare coins, oil and gas leases, precious metals, art, and other "investment opportunities." As a rule, these types of investments are worthless. Remember the old adage, if it sounds too good to be true, it probable is!- Charities: Con artists often label phony charities with names that sound like better-known, reputable organizations. Again, check out the organization with the Better Business Bureau or Consumer Affairs before sending your hard-earned money.
- Recovery scams: If you buy into any of these types of scams, you are likely to be called again by someone promising to get your money back. Be careful not to lose more money in this common practice. No one can guarantee they will recover your money, not even law enforcement officials.
Telephone con artists spend a lot of time polishing their "lines." The following types of pitches are signs that the call may be fraudulent:
- "You have been specially selected to receive this prize."
- "You must act now - or the offer will not be good!"
- "You do not want to be left out of the winnings, do you? Send your check now!"
- "Keep this information secret. If anyone finds out I am doing this for you, the deal is off."
- "Do not tell anyone I am doing this for you or else I will get in trouble with my boss."
- "You must send money via Western Union or Federal Express before I can release your prize to you."
- "I will have a courier stop by your house this afternoon to pick up your cash or check."
If you hear any of the above, or similar, "lines" from a telephone salesperson, just say "no thank you," and hang up the phone. It is very difficult to get your money back if you have been cheated over the phone. Victims rarely get their money back.
If a particular company's calls are bothersome, ask to be put on their "do not call" list and report bothersome calls to the Nevada Attorney General's office.
For more information on this and other consumer matters, contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection Division at (775) 687-6300, or contact the Attorney General's office statewide by calling Nevada's toll free switchboard at 1-800-992-0900. Consumer protection information can be found on the Attorney General's Web site at: www.state.nv.us/ag/.