Criminal Law

Telemarketing Fraud

Key Takeaways:

  • Telemarketing fraud involves fraud over the phone, including collecting payments for a worthless service or product.
  • Telemarketing fraud can include getting personally identifying information to commit identity theft.
  • Telemarketing fraud is a federal crime punishable by five or more years in prison.

Telemarketing is a regular part of life in the 21st century. Companies call you with a recording about “your car’s warranty” or other products. Sometimes, these telemarketers are not selling a legitimate product. They are trying to scam the people they call.

Fraudulent selling over the phone is telemarketing fraud, an increasing problem for consumers in the United States, and law enforcement is cracking down on people accused of phone scams.

Unfortunately, some employees make these phone calls without knowing they are part of a telemarketing scheme. If you are being investigated for telemarketing fraud, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer for the legal guidance you will need.

What Is Telemarketing Fraud?

Telemarketing fraud involves fraud over the phone. At its simplest, it is unwanted calls or unwanted text messages to someone on the national do not call registry.

Telemarketing fraud could include convincing someone to give you a bank account number or other financial information to collect payments for a fake or worthless service or product. Other telemarketing fraud could include getting personally identifying information, like a Social Security number or other sensitive information, from someone to commit identity theft. There are many types of telemarketing fraud, including:

  • Advance fee fraud
  • Pyramid schemes
  • Overpayment fraud
  • Office supply scams
  • Magazine subscription fraud
  • Charity fraud
  • Fake bail calls
  • Medical bill fraud
  • Credit card fraud
  • Warranty scams

Telemarketing scams may be underreported because the victims may be too ashamed that they were taken advantage of to ever tell anyone about it.

The victims are often older adults who may be more trusting when talking to a person over the phone. For example, a common phone scam involves calling someone up and telling them their grandchild got in trouble when traveling in a foreign country and they need to send money to get them out of jail or to get an emergency operation.

The advance fee scam is one of the most common types of telemarketing fraud. The caller will tell the victim they have won an award, a lottery prize, or inherited some money. However, before the victim can get the money, they have to pay some kind of service fee or finder’s fee. Instead, the scammer takes the payment and the victim gets nothing.

Telemarketing fraud may also involve computer crimes. Tech support scams usually start with a phone call warning the victim that they have a virus on their computer. The victim may be asked to download some software or give the fake Microsoft tech worker remote access to the computer. The scammer may then lock the computer or install malware. The scammer will claim to only be able to remove the virus if the victim pays them for software or a service fee.

Federal Telemarketing Fraud Laws

Telemarketing fraud, email marketing fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud are all federal offenses. Telemarketers are regulated by federal laws and regulations that are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

Warning Signs of Phone Scams

According to the FBI, there are possible warning signs that a phone call may be a scam, including:

  • Urging someone to “act now” because there is a limited time
  • Saying someone won a free gift, vacation, or prize, but they have to pay postage or service charges
  • Requiring payment by wiring money or sending a gift card
  • Warning someone not to speak to family, friends, or others about the business
  • Offering high profits and no risks without documentation

If law enforcement is accusing you of telemarketing fraud, they will likely look to see whether you made any statements related to the warning signs above.

Criminal Penalties

Criminal penalties for telemarketing fraud may depend on a number of factors, including the extent of the fraud, the number of victims, the age of the victim, and your prior criminal history. Telemarketing is a felony, which can result in five or more years in prison and substantial fines. When the victim is an older adult, aged 55 or older, a fraud conviction could mean an additional five-year term in prison.

In addition to jail time and fines, the court could order someone convicted of telemarketing fraud charges to pay restitution to the victims. The court can also seize any property involved in the fraud, including equipment, cars, and property.

Telemarketing Fraud Defense

If you are accused of telemarketing fraud, you may be facing years in prison. An experienced criminal defense lawyer with an understanding of white-collar crimes can inform you of your rights and help you build a strong defense. You should not face federal criminal charges because of a mistake or because of someone else’s bad actions. Talk to a criminal defense attorney for help.

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