LITTLE ROCK - Unsolicited telephone calls can be a nuisance to Arkansas consumers, especially if the calls are from a business or marketing company trying to sell products or services that consumers don't want or need.
The unsolicited calls become more than a mere nuisance, though, when the caller attempts to mislead a consumer, perpetrate a fraud or obtain sensitive personal or financial information.
Because reports of deceptive unsolicited calls have increased recently, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert today to offer advice for Arkansans who receive those types of calls.
"The best way to ensure you are not bothered by an annoying caller or someone attempting to mislead you is to choose not to answer calls from numbers you don't recognize," McDaniel said. "In the event you do answer the phone and you are suspicious of what is being said, then hang up and make a call yourself to the business or organization in question to determine the validity of a claim."
McDaniel warned against providing any personal or financial information such as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or bank account information to anyone who initiates a call. Some con artists will engage in a practice known as "pretexting," where they purport to be representatives of a bank or credit-card company in order to trick consumers into providing sensitive data. In such instances, consumers should refuse to provide any information, and instead offer to call the financial institution directly to ask whether the solicitor is making calls on its behalf.
Likewise, consumers who receive suspicious calls regarding political or social issues should also double-check with the entity supposedly connected with the caller to make sure the claims or questions are accurate.
McDaniel cited as an example recent calls being made to some Arkansans from someone posing as an employee of the office of Sen. Mark Pryor. The caller requests information about the number of guns in the home, capitalizing on concerns related to the current gun-control debate in Washington. The call is a ruse, and Pryor has said no one in his office would ever make such calls.
Representatives of the office of Sen. John Boozman agreed that members of Congress would not make unsolicited calls seeking personal information. Both senators encouraged Arkansans who receive those types of calls to contact the Federal Trade Commission.
Meanwhile, McDaniel offered these suggestions to consumers who seek to avoid unsolicited or telemarketing calls:
- Obtain Caller ID service for each telephone line, and monitor Caller ID for unknown or unrecognized numbers. Though some consumers may want to be hospitable and polite no matter who calls, avoiding these types of solicitations entirely are the best way to avoid misleading information or pretexting from an unknown entity.
- Make sure to sign up for the federal Do Not Call registry. Registration is free and it never expires. Telemarketers are not allowed to call phone numbers on the registry if the purpose of the call is to sell goods or services. Violators are subject to fines.
- Know that more restrictive rules apply to telemarketers and unsolicited callers who call cellular phones. Cell-phone users typically do not receive as many unwanted calls as do landline users.
- If repeated unsolicited calls from the same number are received, consider asking the telephone company to block calls originating from that source. The provider may impose a charge for this service.
Keep in mind that con artists do not follow the law anyway, so they disregard the Do Not Call registry regularly. Technological advances allow for Caller ID spoofing, so that scammers can disguise the source of the call to evade prosecution.
When answering a suspicious, unwanted call, consumers should write down as much information as they can about the caller, including the name of the person calling, where they purport to be calling from and the phone number. Then, consumers should notify the Attorney General's Office if they believe themselves to be victims of a scam or a Do-Not-Call violation.
The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline is (800) 482-8982, or consumers may visit the Consumer Protection Division's website, www.GotYourBackArkansas.org.
To report violations to the Federal Trade Commission, call (888) 382-1222 or visit www.ftc.gov.