|NEWARK – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs are urging seniors to avoid becoming the victims of phone fraud schemes and are providing a number of educational tools to help with the effort.
The Division offers brochures online to help consumers identify scams and avoid them. Its latest brochure, Fighting Phone Fraud, also gives information on the federal Do Not Call Registry and how to sign up, along with ways to block robocallers.
The message of the brochures is simple: If you think the call you are receiving is a scam, it probably is.
“Technology has made it easier for disreputable companies and criminals to prey on senior citizens with a simple phone call, often bullying or cajoling people to part with their money. These types of scams are despicable,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We want to arm seniors with information to help them avoid becoming victims and also aid regulatory agencies and law enforcement to stop illegal activity before others are hurt.”
New Jersey law also prohibits telemarketers who have not registered with the Division of Consumer Affairs from calling any New Jersey resident, regardless of whether the resident is on the national Do Not Call Registry or not. Violations of that law can lead to a $10,000 fine for a first offense and up to $20,000 for each subsequent offense.
“There are ways to punish scam autodialer calls in New Jersey, and we urge people who are being subjected to repeated calls to report these efforts to the Division of Consumer Affairs, said Steve Lee, Director of the Division. “Consumers should not engage these callers, but they should make sure to report the phone numbers.”
Those who wish to file a complaint can submit it online.
The scams outlined by the Division in its materials are varied, but all seek either personal information or money. Here are some examples:
- A person posing as an agent of the Internal Revenue Service demands money for back taxes.
- A person posing as a relative calls, saying he or she is in serious trouble and asks you to send money in order to help.
- A person posing as a representative of your electric, gas or water service says that you owe it money and that if it’s not paid now, your service will be shut off.
- A caller says he or she is getting in touch on behalf of Medicare or Medicaid and is seeking personal information because you need a new card.
The advice for all of these is the same. Do not give money. Do not give personal information. Hang up immediately.
In order to limit robocalling and scam calling, consumers first should make sure their phone numbers, both land line and cell, are on the federal Do Not Call Registry, which can be done by phone at 888-382-1222 or online at www.donotcall.gov. Unwanted sales calls also can be reported at this line.
Unfortunately, robocallers and scammers will still call. Third-party services may be able to limit these calls. Information on those services can be obtained at www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/stop-unwanted-calls-texts-and-faxes#call-blocking-resources.
Consumers should also know that spam and autodialer text messages are illegal as well. If you are getting unsolicited offers for free merchandise or services via text, do not respond. Instead, report these messages by filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (complaints.donotcall.gov) or the Federal Communications Commission (consumercomplaints.fcc.gov).
In addition, if your wireless provider is AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint or Bell, you can report offending texts by copying and pasting the original text and forwarding it to 7726, free of charge.
The following are links to some of the Division’s materials on phone fraud:
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