How to Spot Common Telemarketing Schemes And Scams in 2020

How to spot common telemarketing schemes in 2020

How to Spot Common Telemarketing Schemes And Scams in 2020

If you have a cellphone, chances are you have already experienced how telemarketing works. From too-good-to-be-true credit cards offers to telemarketers who are hell-bent on selling you the coupons they have on offer – we all have had our fair share of telemarketing calls directed towards our wallets.

Before digital marketing revolutionised marketing, telemarketing was one of the most commonly utilised advertising tactics.

Its overwhelming popularity was the leading cause behind the rise of telemarketing frauds. Back in 1993, Better Business Bureau (BBB) recorded over 343,000 pre-purchase inquiries about ‘fraud-prone’ telemarketing sectors, whereas complaints regarding telemarketing frauds increased by 60%.

While telemarketing is not the most dominant promotional platform anymore, it is still alive.

Going into 2020, telemarketing is active and thriving. Businesses around the world use the power of effective communication to forge beneficial consumer relationships. Likewise, scammers also exploit our over-dependence on our smartphones to their benefit. 

Ill-intended marketers continue to send phone calls and text messages daily – these fraud tactics can be terrifying and may rob the victim of money or data and other vital resources. To avoid such a scenario and stop the scammers, we must learn how to spot and report them immediately.

In this article, we will disclose some common scams in telemarketing these days.

Everyday Telemarketing Scams To Look Out For

According to a 2020 Phishing Statistics report by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, an estimated 5,343 people have already fallen prey to telemarketing fraud- losing $194,986 by providing their bank info. If you’ve ever received a phone call asking for your bank information (such as your account number, ATM pin codes, etc.), know that you have been a target for phone phishing. 

As consumers have become more aware, not many are falling for all-too-obvious lies. This has pushed scammers to become creative, devising cunning and intricate lies to scam people out of their hard-earned money.

Let’s discuss some of the common telemarketing frauds that target specific individuals who can easily fall victim to false promises and sweet talk: 

1. Foreign Lottery Ticket Fraud

As one of the most common telemarketing scams, most people are well-aware of this and don’t fall for it. However, for those in dire need, even the faintest of possibility to earn extra money can appear attractive.

It starts by an anonymous caller proclaiming that you have won a massive amount of money in a foreign lottery. As soon as you start questioning the scammer, they will go to great lengths to persuade you how you got selected for entering the lottery. 

A common way to convince people is to tell them that they qualified in a lucky draw at a popular retail store. The fraud is all about the foreign factor, with the phone scammers will ask you to pay a certain imaginary upfront fee in the form of provincial and administration taxes. 

Additionally, they will either provide you detailed instructions on methods of payment or ask for your bank details. Of course, that lottery money just doesn’t exist, and your ‘tax fee’ is going straight in the scammer’s pocket.

Now you know what to do if you ever receive a lottery winning call!

2. Government Grant Fraud

The title of this hoax explains it all, and you must be very familiar with this one. Victims receive a call, claiming that the government has selected them for a free grant

The scammer behind this scheme is after your personal and private information, money, or maybe both. They may also inquire about your Social security number for identity theft and bank details. 

The criminal can also ask you to pay some sort of government tax to access the grant. The truth is that government grants don’t require any fee. 

3. Upfront Fees for Loans

This telemarketing fraud is very similar to the grant scam, except that the scammer will show himself as a representative of a financial institution to lend further credibility.

They will tell you that your loan has been approved, but you need to pay upfront charges for it to proceed. Additionally, some scammers may also inquire about your bank details or ask you to send a registration fee to a particular bank account. 

If you have already applied for a bank loan, you must stay cautious about such schemes. Most of the banks don’t ask your details over a phone call. For more insight into how these intricate scams work, check out these Upfront fees frauds to protect yourself from fraud.

4. Identity Theft Insurance Scam

Identity theft is one of the most common crimes, with the 2019’s Identity Fraud Study reporting than 14.4 million people were victims of such crimes in 2018. The out-of-pocket costs for these victims totaled an enormous 1.7 billion – more than twice the amount in 2016.

If you or someone in your family has been a victim of identity theft, the chances are that it may happen again. Preventing it can be more challenging if you have kids or elderly members of the family. 

This is why when someone offers people insurance against identity fraud, they are more likely to fall victim to such a scheme as opposed to other frauds. 

Once the scammers have sold you fake identity theft insurance over the phone, they will call you (again) to proclaim that you are already liable for a significant amount due to crimes committed via identity fraud.

Anyone can become a victim of identity theft, so such type of scam insurances are not hard to sell. The Global Insurance Fraud report claims that 8% to 9% of insurance offers in Australia may be scams. Just stay extra careful and never trust or share your credit card details with anyone on the phone.

5. Mystery Shopping Fraud

What will you do if someone approaches you with an ‘easy’ income proposal, claiming that you can make $500 just by shopping at specific stores? 

Sounds too good to be true, but people have become victims of mystery shopping fraud.

Scammers initiate it over a simple text message, an email, or a phone call. Once you fall for it, they will send you a significant amount in the form of a check or cash.

The scammer will ask you to reserve a few hundred dollars for your ‘services’ and use the remaining at certain stores, other services providers, and financial institutions. Your task will include transferring money (to the scammer himself), sending/purchasing gift cards, and reporting everything to the fraudster.

To make this scam sound more legit and convincing, the scammer may ask you to keep some of the purchased items for yourself. Eventually, when you have spent all the money, you will realise that the check was counterfeit. 

6. Vishing or No Hang-up Fraud

Imagine if someone hijacks your phone and gets all the information, including your bank details? It will be your worst nightmare. While you may think that it’s uncertain to happen, a scammer can quickly get into your phone by pretending to be the victim’s bank representative. 

He hangs up, so you could call your bank to find out if there are any issues.

By that time, the fraudster has already hijacked your phone. The problem is that they didn’t actually hung-up the call. The victim will think that they are calling the bank representative, but in reality, they are just speaking to the scammer. 

He will ask you simple bank-related questions to ‘authenticate’ your identity and then proceed to get enough details to rob you of essential bank account info that they can use to duplicate you and withdraw money. A simple hung-up phone call prank can lead to a major disaster.

7. Computer Tech Support Fraud

The Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) claims that it received around 1,761 tech support fraud reports in 2019. The scammer can call you claiming that your computer needs some repairs or that you have accidentally downloaded threatening malware. 

Once you fall into the trap, the fraudster will inquire for remote access to fic the computer issues. A simple email link is enough to provide him with access to your computer. 

Once the scammer has control over your PC, they can easily get into your personal details, such as the folders and pictures.

Such confidential data can be used for blackmailing purposes as well. More importantly, the hacker can use your personal information, such as bank and investment details, and steal everything.

To top it off, they will also demand a repair fee after completing his ‘tech services.’

8. ‘Can You Hear Me’ Fraud

Scammers use this con to bypass the voice authentication process. Let’s suppose your bank uses a voice signature criterion during phone banking – the fraudster just needs a sample of your voice to get your bank details. 

Often, they want you to say ‘yes,’ and for that, they will call you and ask, ‘Can you hear me?’

If you respond ‘yes,’ the criminal will start recording you. So, if you ever pick up an unknown phone call, avoid answering ‘yes’ at all. This may sound weird; you say yes on calls to a lot of people.

However, there were many frauds complains against imposters using your voice to scam in 2019. It’s like the saying goes – better safe than sorry!

9. Grandparent or Elderly Scams

The elderly citizens are very vulnerable and often easy to prank. We all know that they would do anything to ensure their grandkids are safe and protected. Coupled with their relative unawareness of how modern technology works, they are an easy target for telemarketing fraud.

Often, scammers call the elderly posing as the grandchild and ask for some urgent money to get out of a specific situation. The reason could be anything, including transportation costs, academic fees, etc.

When the grandparent falls for the hoax, the scammer will provide the necessary details or direction to send the money. Their usual ploy is to make it sound urgent and convince the elderly not to involve anyone else in this. 

All of this will add to the truthfulness of the story, and the scammers will get what they want. It’s crucial to check on the elderly and advise them to discuss every phone call before making any move.

How to Protect Yourself Against Telemarketing Frauds

Being well-aware and informed is the first step to avoiding such telemarketing frauds. Here are a few other precautionary measures spot a telemarketing fraud:

Spot The Red Flags

Check if the offers you receive from an unknown phone call are unbelievable or too good to be true. 

If someone asks for your personal data, disconnect the call and report the number immediately. Also, if someone is trying to pressurise you to take action on a particular matter, contact the concerned authorities.

Ask The Caller’s Name

If you are ever unsure of the caller’s identity, ask them their name and number. This way, you can conduct research and avoid yourself from potential scams.

Beware Of Automated Phone Messages

Most private and government institutions won’t communicate using automated texts. If you ever received a message like this, research the number online. Don’t call back before investigating it properly.

Use A Caller ID Application

App stores have a ton of caller IDs applications, such as Truecaller. These apps will track down the scammer and block him from calling you again. You need to install the most reliable sources for scam protection.

Beware Of Numbers Similar To Yours

Fraudsters use neighbourhood spoofing to come up with numbers similar to yours. Avoid picking up calls from such numbers and advice your family to do the same. The scammers trick you into trusting the caller and receiving the call.

Change Your Number

If nothing else works, consider changing your number. Scammers usually pass the victim’s number, so it forms a chain of fraud. If you are getting a lot of scam calls and messages, change your phone number right away!

How to Report a Suspected Scam?

The government encourages its citizens to report scams, frauds, and suspected individuals to relevant counter-fraudulent agencies. These cases help the government to investigate and take necessary measures against the perpetrators of fraud. 

It is imperative to act fast as the slightest delay can let the telemarketing fraudsters change their names, locales or go offline. This could delay their apprehension and prosecution difficult and defer the recovery of your money.

If you are a victim, report the incidents here:

  • Australia: Scamwatch (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission)
  • United States of America: FTC Complaint Assistant
  • Canada: Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
  • United Kingdom: Action Fraud (National Fraud & Cybercrime Reporting Centre)


Telemarketing scammers are clever – they keep coming up with new and improved ideas to scam people out of their hard-earned cash. They usually prey on innocent people who answer their phones, without making any distinction between young or old, boomers or millennials. 

They also find it easier to target people who have responded to such telemarketing scams in the past. That’s why we need to educate our elderly and children, as they are more vulnerable to these scams. 

It is our duty as citizens to report suspicious scenarios to officials to stop these scams for good. Fortunately, the government takes strong and immediate actions against such fraudsters. 

What is Telemarketing?

Google defines telemarketing as the marketing of goods or services by means of telephone calls, to potential customers. However, the term Telemarketing is commonly used to represent Telesales, appointment setting and any related cold calling activities. There is however a large difference, the names suggest the intentions of the activity.

We’ve clarified these below:

– Telemarketing is an informative, awareness based activity. i.e calling people and notifying them that their local petrol station is now closed. 
– Telesales focuses on selling from phone based conversations. i.e calling people with the objective to sell them a service or product during the call.
– Appointment setting focuses on setting appointments between businesses and their prospects. i.e A software company using our (Or any other appointment setter, internal or external) to call and book appointments with prospects on behalf of the sales team.

What can I do to prevent scam phone calls?

The Department of Communications provides the following tips to protect your personal and financial details. Do not provide them to anyone who asks for that information unless you are completely certain about who is contacting you.

1. Never give out your personal information or your bank details
2. Double check contact details through an independent source, like a bill or through an online search
3. Don’t be tempted to click on links that have been sent to you out-of-the-blue
4. Hang up and if needed, call the organisation back using a number on their website or in a public directory.
5. Visit the Scamwatch website for further information about how to recognise, avoid and report scams.

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