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Scam artist checklist for seniors

Keep this checklist handy when telemarketers call. The questions will help you to determine whether a telemarketing call is legitimate or not. You also should save your notes from each call in case you develop concerns about a donation or purchase after the call. If you think there's a problem, call 911 or contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1 (877) 382-4357.

If a caller doesn't provide satisfactory answers to your questions, hang up immediately.

1. Note the date and time of the call ________________ Is the call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.? ___Yes ___No

What to watch out for: Hang up if the answer is yes. All organizations that follow federal telemarketing guidelines must limit their calls to this 13-hour period.

2. Has the caller fully identified the organization that he/she represents immediately after you answer? ___Yes ___ No

Does the caller work for the organization itself or for a fundraising firm? ________________

Ask for and jot down the full name, address and phone number of the person making the call and the organization(s) that the caller represents:

What to watch out for: Hang up if the caller hesitates or refuses to provide any of this information. Organizations that heed federal telemarketing guidelines should immediately identify themselves.

3. Does the caller represent a charitable organization?___ Yes ___ No

What is the charitable purpose of the organization?__________________

Is it registered with the Georgia secretary of state? ___Yes ___No

What percentage of its total income does the charity spend on its program?____

What to watch out for: Don't settle for vague descriptions of the organization's activities that emphasize the problem without explaining what the charity is actually doing about it. Also, make sure that at least 50 percent to 60 percent of your donation will go toward actual charitable work -- not fundraising expenses.

4. Is the caller offering a product, service or contest of some sort? ___Yes ___No

How much does the product or service cost?___________

Is the sale final or nonrefundable? ___Yes ___No

Does the caller seek payment prior to delivering the product or service? ___Yes ___No

What to watch out for: Hang up if the caller seeks payment prior to delivery of the product or service or if the offer does not come with a money-back guarantee.

5. Does the caller seek cash? ___Yes ___No

What to watch out for: Hang up immediately if the answer is yes. Legitimate organizations do not seek cash payments via the phone.

6. Will the caller send details of the charity or product/service in writing -- and therefore give you time to carefully review the offer? ___Yes ___No

What to watch out for: Hang up immediately if the answer is no -- or if you must act "right away." Legitimate organizations will respect your interest in taking time to review offers prior to making a decision.

Source: American Association of Retired Persons

Web posted on Thursday, August 27, 2009

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