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Beware of unsavory telemarketers selling magazines

Con artists use a variety of telemarketing approaches to rip you off over the telephone. Telemarketing fraud is a multi-million dollar business in Georgia. Every year thousands of Georgians lose money to telephone con artists. Victims lose from a few dollars to thousands. Some consumers lose their life savings and financial security.

Scam artists often call consumers under the guise of selling magazine subscriptions, often as part of a sweepstakes "prize." However, their real goal is to get your credit card number and expiration date, and to use this information to run up thousands of dollars of unauthorized charges. Many times, you never receive the magazines.

The scam artist gets your name, phone number, and other personal information from a broker list. He will tell you that you have been chosen to participate in a contest for a cash prize because you are a preferred Visa or MasterCard customer, and that all you have to do to enter is buy some magazine subscriptions at "low introductory rates."

Do not give out your credit card number or expiration date! If you give out this information, your account could end up with thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. Remember, prizes are free. If you have to buy something, it is not a prize.

Unscrupulous telemarketers also offer magazine subscriptions for "discount rates" that can be more expensive than buying the magazine at the store. Do the math yourself to see if the offer really is a good deal. You can get a low introductory subscription rate for most magazines by filling out an insert card from the magazine and sending in the subscription request yourself. In addition, magazine sales by telephone often result in long-term subscriptions with negative options renewals: unless you contact the publishing company to say, "Do not renew my subscription," the company will continue to renew your subscription and charge your credit card.

When to hang up the telephone:

  • The telemarketer asks you for your credit card information. If he can't send you something in writing, just hang up.

  • The telemarketer threatens you with civil action if you question a charge on your credit card account.

  • The telemarketer wants you to act right away. If the offer is only good for today, just hang up.

  • The caller gets hostile when you ask specific questions. Don't let a stranger browbeat you into parting with your hard-earned money.

  • The caller urges you not to tell anyone about this opportunity. This ploy is frequently used to target the elderly. Con artists know that older people are more likely to be embarrassed about losing their money in a scam, and less likely to tell others about their losses.

    File a complaint with the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs if you have been victimized in a magazine sales scheme.

    Describe what happened with as much detail as possible in a letter. Include copied of any documents that support your complaint.

    Web posted on Thursday, September 21, 2006

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