Automated telemarketing calls which feature a recorded sales pitch, sometimes referred to as “robocalls,” are illegal especially if they involve telemarketing fraud. The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has made it illegal to use pre recorded telemarketing calls unless the telemarketer has the express, written permission of the person called.
Additionally, there are many state laws which regulate robocalls. Depending on the specific state, a telemarketer may need to:
- Acquire a license;
- Only call during certain hours;
- Make specific disclosures; and/or
- Ask for permission to continue the call.
An example of this would be how in California, a live person must identify the source of the call. The recipient of the call must then consent to hear the recorded message, and the call must be disconnected as soon as the recorded pitch concludes.
Telemarketing is the specific act of selling goods and/or services over the telephone. Fraud is the act of making a statement with the intent to deceive through false representation of a fact. This misrepresentation of the fact causes the victim to rely on it when making a decision, to their legal detriment.
Telemarketing fraud, then, is the making of a false statement of a fact over the telephone in order to induce a victim into making a financial transaction. Telemarketing fraud occurs when:
- Someone calls a victim;
- They make a false statement to the victim; and
- The misrepresentation causes the victim to make a financial transaction with the caller.
Some of the most common examples of telemarketing fraud include, but are not limited to:
- Prize offers;
- Winning a sweepstakes;
- Receiving free and/or discounted anti-virus software from a company;
- Credit card offers;
- Magazine sales;
- Loan offers;
- Programs to work from home; and
- Vacation offers.
What Are Telemarketing Travel Scams?
Telemarketing travel scams are a specific type of fraud that individuals use to illegally take money from other people. The distinguishing aspect of travel fraud would be the importance of finding new recruits to participate. In order to facilitate this scheme, individuals call potential travelers and tell them that they have won a free trip.
However, inherent in these free packages are upfront costs, as well as other telemarketing pitches which require consumers to purchase products before receiving the free offer. The vast majority of participants never receive the free trip, or face enormous costs associated with paying for hotel rooms, products, and/or hidden expenses.
These organizations and scams are generally successful because many potential buyers are enticed by the great deal that is being promised. However, as previously mentioned, the promised trip always involves high costs that are not disclosed to the winner. Many willing participants may become victims by writing checks on the promise that they will receive a free trip that never occurs, which keeps these scams going.
What Are Some Of The Most Common Travel Scams In General?
Although not every travel scam involves telemarketing scams, it is helpful to be aware of common travel scams. As of 2021, some of the most common examples of travel scams include:
- An Overbooked or Closed Hotel: This common travel scam is largely associated with cab drivers. While on the way to your hotel, the taxi driver will tell you that your hotel is either closed or overbooked. They may then bring you to a more expensive hotel where they receive a commission for doing so. Cab drivers can also attempt this scam by saying that the original hotel is bad or unsafe in some way;
- Fake Police Officers: The fake police officer scam is generally more popular in large cities. An example of this scam would be how a person will approach a tourist and offer illicit items, such as illegal drugs. While talking, one or two other people will approach the victim while appearing to be police officers and providing their “badges.” They then insist that the unknowing traveler forfeit their passport and wallet for legal purposes. However, these people are not police officers; and/or
- Fake WiFi Hubs: Some of those free, unlocked connections could be dangerous and lead to another scam. Hackers will set up unsecured wifi hotspots in public locations, giving the thief access to your computer, passwords, and online accounts.
What Should I Do If I Am A Victim Of A Telemarketing Travel Scam Or Fraud?
Travel telemarketing frauds are against the law; as such, it is a criminal offense to knowingly engage in an act of telemarketing travel fraud. Some steps victims can take include contacting the police. These fraudulent telemarketers target naive consumers, which could constitute consumer fraud. Contacting your local law enforcement officials may be the best way to track down the creators of the scheme, as well as to return money to the rightful owners.
Additionally, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission. The Federal Trade Commission was established by the Federal Trade Commission Act in 1914. The Act is intended to protect consumers, as well as to prevent specific business practices which take advantage of consumers and push other businesses out.
An example of this would be how the FTC regulates companies from forming monopolies, or dominating the market, which is also known as antitrust regulation. The FTC does this in an effort to protect both consumers and businesses. Some examples of the activities that the FTC undertakes include, but may not be limited to:
The FTC’s larger goal is to ensure that the markets are vigorous, efficient, and free of restrictions. As such, the FTC enforces consumer protection laws preventing fraud, deception, and unfair business practices. Additionally, the FTC regularly assists the Justice Department in prosecuting travel scams and fraud. If travel scams have crossed state lines, the federal government has the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute those responsible.
The FTC may decide to take action when receiving:
- Letters from consumers or businesses;
- Pre-merger notification filings;
- Congressional inquiries; and/or
- Articles on consumer or economic subjects.
The FTC’s investigations are usually non-public, as this protects the investigation as well as the companies that are involved.
If the FTC believes that a company has violated the law, they may attempt to obtain voluntary compliance by entering into a consent order with the company. What this means is that the company agrees to cease its practices; if the FTC cannot reach an agreement, they may issue an administrative complaint or seek injunctive relief from the courts.
When violations are found, the responsible company may be ordered to cease and desist. Additionally, the FTC may issue Trade Regulation Rules. During this portion of the proceedings, the public can attend hearings and file written comments on a proposed rule.
It is important to remember that travel fraud can extend to a variety of areas. Because of this, you should ask questions regarding the terms of the trip. Consider whether the trip sounds too good to be true, and learn as much as you can before agreeing to anything or providing money.
Do I Need An Attorney For Telemarketing Travel Scams?
If you are involved in a telemarketing travel scam, you should consult with an experienced and local fraud lawyer. An attorney can advise you regarding your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.