Telemarketing Scams

This document is intended to provide consumers with information regarding a specific topic. It is not meant to provide comprehensive information. For further questions, please contact the Consumer Affairs Division at (617) 635-3834.

Guard Against Telemarketing Scams

Consumers lose about $40 billion every year to telemarketing fraud. Although most sales pitches are legitimate, you should be on guard whenever you receive a phone solicitation. Fraudulent telemarketing can come in the form of a direct cold call to your home, or it can result from your call responding to a print or broadcast ad.

The Telemarketing Sales Rule

This federal law applies to most telemarketing calls. Pursuant to this law:

  • It's illegal for a telemarketer to call you if you've asked not to be called.

  • Calling times are restricted to between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

  • You must be told if it's a sales call, and be told who is calling before the pitch.

  • You must be told that no purchase or payment is needed to win a prize. Hang up if you're asked to pay for a prize.

  • It's illegal for telemarketers to misrepresent any information about their goods or services. They can't lie in order to get you to buy!

  • Telemarketers must tell you the total cost of the product or services.

  • You do not have to pay for any credit repair, money recovery services, or loan services until these services have been delivered.

The Rule does not apply to calls made by you in response to a general media advertising, calls initiated by you not responding to any solicitation, catalog sales, sales not completed until there is a face-to-face meeting, business-to-business calls, and sales of pay-per-call services or sales of franchises.

Things You Can Do To Guard Against Telemarketing Fraud

  • Keep the above information near the phone. Legitimate companies will follow the above rules. Don't deal with companies that won't!

  • Take your time, and ask for written information before buying

  • Be careful about what you say to a telemarketer. A verbal agreement may obligate you to buy.

  • Don't send money by courier, overnight mail, or wire, to anyone who insists on immediate payment.

  • Unless you are sure of who you are dealing with, don't give out sensitive information such as your Social Security number, credit card numbers, or bank account numbers.

  • Call the Mayor's Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing at 635-3834 if you have any questions.

Do Not Call Registry

Effective January 1, 2003, an Act Regulating Telemarketing Solicitation created a "Do Not Call" Registry with the Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulations. By signing on to the Do Not Call Registry consumers will be able to stop receiving certain prohibited telephone solicitations.  

  • The list is free and is available for all Massachusetts residents to sign up

  • Residents can register any home or cell phone numbers and each number only needs to be registered once

  • Business phone numbers are not covered by this law

  • The registry must be updated four times a year and telemarketers must pay a fee to receive the registry

Registering Your Number

There are three ways for consumers to register their phone number to prohibit certain telephone solicitations.

  1. Register online at www.mass.gov/donotcall. The website may be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

  2. Call toll free 1-866-231-CALL (2255). This automated system is also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 

  3. Print out a registration form and mail it to the following address: 

    Massachusetts Do Not Call Program
    c/o First Data
    11311 Cornell Park Drive, Suite 300
    Cincinnati, OH 45242

When writing, residents should be sure to include their name, address, and phone number.

Protection Under the Law

  • Unsolicited sales calls may not be made to consumers who sign up on the Do Not Call Registry after the effective date of their registration

  • Soliciting telephone calls cannot be made to any Massachusetts consumer's (even those who are not on the registry) between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 am

  • Soliciting facsimile transmissions cannot be made at any time

  • Telephone solicitations using recorded messages cannot be made at any time

  • Telemarketers cannot use blocking devices to stop an individual caller identification device

  • Telemarketers must disclose, within the first minute of the sales call, identifying information, including the sales purpose of the call, the name of the telemarketer and the name of the ultimate seller, and an accurate and complete description of the goods or services being offered

  • Telemarketers must disclose the following before any payment discussions: the total cost of the goods/services offered, any limits of the purchase, the refund and return policy, and the material items of any investment opportunity being offered, including the price, location and the non-guaranteed nature of the investment

Exception to the Law

Consumers may receive certain types of calls:

  • Non-commercial calls or surveys

  • Calls made by tax-exempt non-profit organizations 

  • Calls made to consumers with consumer's express permission

  • Telephone calls that are made in response to an express request of that consumer

  • Telephone calls made primarily in connection with existing contract or debt

  • Telephone sales calls to an existing customer

  • Telephone sales calls in the context of ongoing consumer sales when face-to-face presentations or meetings are prerequisites to payment are telephone calls that fall outside the coerced purview of the banned solicitations above

  • The law does not cover e-mail or junk mail

How is the Law Enforced

  • The law may be enforced by the Attorney General or by consumers who bring suit on their own 

Your information on the "Do Not Call" List cannot be used for any other purpose other than preventing telemarketing calls and is protected from general disclosure and inspection.

For more information, visit MA's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations.   

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