How can you tell if an older relative, friend, or client may be a target for telemarketing fraud?

Here are some warning signs:

  • The person receives lots of junk mail for contests, “free trips,” prizes and sweepstakes.
  • The person gets frequent calls from people offering valuable awards, great money-making opportunities, or charitable donations.
  • The person has lots of cheap items such as costume jewelry, watches, pens and pencils, small appliances, beauty products, water filters, or other products that he or she either purchased in order to “win” something or received as so-called “valuable prizes.”
  • The person has made numerous checks or withdrawals for escalating amounts of money to unfamiliar, out-of-state companies.
  • The person begins to act very secretively about phone calls.
  • The person is having payments picked up by private courier services or wiring money to companies.
  • The person is having sudden problems paying bills, or buying food or other necessities.


  • Blame the person for being stupid, greedy or foolish. Telemarketing swindlers are good at what they do and take advantage of people’s honesty, politeness and optimism;
  • Threaten to take away the person’s financial or physical independence. This may only make the person secretive and resentful.


  • Help the person assemble the information to report the fraud to the state or local consumer protection agency or to the NFIC.
  • Emphasize the criminal nature of telemarketing fraud and help the person learn how to identify it.
  • Encourage the person to hang up on telephone solicitations that seem suspicious.
  • Have a calm discussion and try to come to an agreement about the best way to handle the person’s finances in the future. If he or she seems to be truly incompetent, seek legal advice;Help the person change his or her phone number, if necessary.