FTC bans telesales scammers' favorite payment tactics: Internet Scambusters #705
If a telesales rep convinces you to buy whatever he's selling and to wire the payment, you know for sure it's a scam.
How? Because money wires and a couple of other payment methods have now been outlawed in the telesales market, as we explain in this week's issue.
We'll also explain how job ads are being used as a front for generating career education sales leads.
Now, here we go...
New Rules Will Help You Spot Telesales Scam
There's a new way of spotting a telemarketing scam attempt.
The nation's consumer watchdog, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has introduced a new rule that bans the use of payment methods that scammers like to use.
"Con artists like payments that are tough to trace and hard for people to reverse," says Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The FTC's new telemarketing rules ban payments that scammers like but honest telemarketers don't use."
The change outlaws a process that enables telemarketers to remotely create payment orders after speaking to a victim, and then to directly access their bank accounts.
Often victims don't realize they've effectively consented to the setting up of these payment orders -- and they don't realize they've been tricked until they check their bank account and find it's been raided by the sales company.
But this process will no longer be permitted, blocking a favored scam route.
More importantly, the new rule also bans the use of money wire transfers for payments.
Scammers like to use these electronic payments because they're untraceable.
But now, if a telemarketer asks you to use this prohibited payment method you'll know it's a scam or, at the very least, the caller is operating outside the law and cannot be trusted.
Equally importantly, the FTC has also banned the use of prepaid cash-reloadable debit cards in telemarketing transactions.
In the past, scammers have been able to use cash reloads to add funds to their own cards.
The FTC points out that in 2015 "major cash reload providers replaced cash reload mechanisms with a swipe reload process, a safer alternative." These are not affected by the new rules.
The changes, which came into effect earlier this year, also update some elements of the Do Not Call Registry.
For example, a telemarketer who calls someone who is on the register must be able to prove they have an existing relationship with the call recipient or that he/she has provided a written agreement to the calls.
Meantime, the FTC has recently announced a link-up with the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in a further bid to stop abuse of the Do Not Call system and to reduce the cross-border flow of spam.
The two agencies will work together to clamp down on these crimes as well as tech support scams and illegal robocalls.
The move comes at a time when the FTC has obtained settlements banning robocalls from U.S.-based companies pitching travel and vacation packages.
And in a further alert, the Commission's consumer education specialist Amy Hebert has highlighted another scam -- this time, one that conceals an information-stealing operation behind a bogus job interview.
The scheme involves online ads claiming to be from an organization that pre-screens potential applicants for jobs with well-known and highly reputable companies and government agencies.
People who respond to the ad are called in for an "interview" but, says Hebert, the real aim is to collect details about the individuals, perhaps for selling as sales-leads to other businesses, or to try to persuade them to enroll in career training programs.
"When companies gather information about people -- not for themselves but to sell to other companies -- that's lead generation," Herbert explained.
"The lead generator finds people (leads) likely to be interested in buying a company's products or services. It's a legitimate business, but not if the lead generator lies about what it's really up to."
In one case the Commission investigated, applicants who thought they were being pre-screened for employment found that they wound up talking to an "education advisor" who would attempt to line them up with a school that he said would help them achieve their careers goals.
"If you're looking for jobs or colleges online," Hebert added, "remember that some sites promising to match you with the right job or college could be lead generation companies.
"Their results usually favor their paid clients. If you follow their advice, you might miss out on better, more affordable schools or programs that aren't paying the company for leads."
Alert of the Week
Watch out for the latest Facebook phishing trick: Free tickets courtesy of Alaska Airlines.
It's a fake promotion that's not connected with the company, the airline says.
The scam uses a convincing-looking coupon and a fake coupon code, which it says will provide a pair of free tickets to anyone who shares the promotion with three friends.
A link in the post takes victims to a sign-up page where they have to provide an email address.
The next thing they experience is a bombardment of spam email -- and, of course, no tickets.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.