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All residents in Naples, Florida, have been on the receiving end of telemarketing calls. If some of them sounded like scams to the people who answered, it is because telemarketing fraud is extremely common. This form of fraud involves criminal parties deceiving people in some way over the telephone to gain money or property. The offense may also use print, radio, television or internet advertising that entices people to call a number that connects them to a fraudulent organization. Telemarketing fraud frequently occurs alongside other offenses, like health care fraud and identity theft. For that reason, suspects may be charged with multiple criminal offenses. State laws apply to some offenses, but federal authorities handle telemarketing cases that operated across state lines or international borders. Federal criminal charges make the advice of a Naples telemarketing fraud attorney extremely important. Federal prosecution can be aggressive, and paying high fines and serving time in prison are possible.
Examples of telemarketing fraud
Scams initiated over the telephone typically prey upon people’s fears and attempt to get them take immediate action against a threat. Scammers may pose as a bank or credit card company that needs an account holder’s personal information to correct an account breach. Worries about affording medical care might make people vulnerable to pitches for low-cost insurance policies that do not exist or discounted medical services. Telemarketing frauds also leverage the desire for money by offering loans, government grants, jobs or lottery prizes as long as the person pays a fee right now.
Fraudulent telemarketers have devised nearly limitless strategies, including:
- advance fee loans: People with poor credit are most susceptible to these fake loan offers that require payment of an upfront fee to gain approval for a loan.
- guaranteed government grants: Telemarketers tell people that they qualify for government grants and prepare a fake application over the phone. The person will then be asked to provide bank account details for the deposit, but money is taken from the account instead.
- lottery scams: People receive a call about winning a prize in a foreign lottery, but they need to pay fees to release payment. The crimes may include sending the person a counterfeit check in the mail.
- fake identity theft or credit card insurance: The fraudulent pitch delivered by the caller seeks to sell people some form of protection to prevent identity theft or cover unauthorized credit card purchases. During the call, the telemarketer may sell the fake product and extract personal and financial information for use in other crimes.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Are charges state or federal?
Most investigations arise from consumer complaints after people discover that they have been deceived by a sales call. The Federal Trade Commission processes these complaints. The agency generally refers smaller, local incidents to state authorities for continued investigation and prosecution. However, many telemarketing scams are run by large organizations with multi-state and international participants. Under those circumstances, various federal agencies will then become involved.
For example, the FBI, IRS, and the Health and Human Services Inspector General’s Office along with U.S. attorneys in 17 states collaborated to uncover an enormous $1.3 billion Medicare scam that had a telemarketing component.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, overseas call centers managed the calls to Medicare recipients. Ads for free orthopedic braces would direct senior citizens to a call center where telemarketers verified their Medicare coverage and referred the callers to telemedicine companies. The telemedicine consultations resulted in prescriptions for orthopedic braces regardless of patient need. Medicare would then be billed for the equipment. Earnings were sent to offshore shell companies for money laundering purposes. The operators of the organization spent their profits on yachts, cars, luxury homes and travel. Among the two dozen people charged, three were men from South Florida who were running the call centers and telemedicine companies.
Telemarketing fraud defenses
Disgruntled customers may initiate complaints when telemarketers are not actually committing fraud. Misunderstandings and dissatisfaction are not necessarily caused by criminal actions. A defense attorney willing to challenge allegations might protect suspects from charges or conviction.
A common defense strategy will assert that someone had no intention of defrauding anyone. A defense attorney may also find opportunities to show that technically no false or misleading statements were made. If the character of the communications was inherently accurate, then a fraud charge may not be applicable.
Get help from a knowledgeable federal criminal defense attorney
Due to the vast reach that telemarketing scams can have, a criminal organization may have many employees or subcontractors involved. Some employees may be unaware of the fraud at the heart of an operation, but they still become subject to investigation. Any answers given to questions from state or federal law enforcement could contribute to criminal charges. Even honest attempts to explain actions might serve as self-incrimination. Meeting with a telemarketing fraud lawyer at Joffe Law, P.A. before speaking with authorities is always an appropriate first step. Our office in Naples supplies strong legal support meant to deflect suspicion or improve your position should prosecution go forward.