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.
Register online at www.mass.gov/donotcall. The website may be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Call toll free 1-866-231-CALL (2255). This automated system is also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
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
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.