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Insight from WFPD: Exercise care with telemarketers, make sure they are legitimate calls

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We have all received the telephone call from a national association requesting a pledge of a financial contribution to preserve a program, prevent bad things from happening, or provide a service for a particular cause. Normally, the call includes mention of a local group or organization to make you believe a portion of the money will be given to someone you may know. While some of the calls originate with programs that are legitimate others are not.

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To ensure your money goes where you want it to go ask questions of the person calling. Ask the caller if they are an actual employee of the organization mentioned or if they are a telemarketing group. Telemarketing groups take a percentage, at times more than 80 percent, of the money pledged to provide their service. Telemarketers are typically used when the organization does not have the staff or capabilities to make the calls themselves.

Listen to the caller as they explain how the money collected will be used. Ask clarifying questions if the statements are vague as to how funds are spent. Follow up with additional questions on the specific programs that are mentioned. The caller should be able to clearly answer your questions. Direct your questions around subjects or organizations you have some knowledge about so you can gauge the truthfulness of the caller's responses.

Don't be pressured into giving. If you are not comfortable with the request being made, say no thank you and hang up. You are under no obligation to give. You can also ask the caller to send information by mail so that you may further review the material about which the call was made. Local organizations which are utilizing telephone fund raising will also be glad to answer questions may have. You may elect to make your contribution directly to the organization of your choice to ensure 100 percent of your contribution goes to the intended group.

The State of North Dakota provides a Do Not Call program which prohibits certain telemarketing calls. The program allows you to register your phone number to a do not call list. Under the program Telemarketers: Can't call anyone who has registered on the "do not call" list; can't use paid professional fundraisers to call you; can't call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. local time; can't block your Caller ID service; can't use an automatic dialing device unless it disconnects within ten seconds after you hang up; can't use pre-recorded messages or "synthesized" voice messages unless a live operator comes on the line first to get your express permission. The operator must tell you what company is calling, what it is promoting and whether it intends to solicit money from you; and must state at the beginning of the call, the caller's name, location and the business.

There are some exceptions to the "Do Not Call" program: Calls by a volunteer or an employee of a charitable organization; calls by or on behalf of a political party, candidate or other group with a political purpose; calls made to you with your prior written request, consent, invitation or permission; calls by or on behalf of persons or companies with whom you have had an established business or personal relationship within the past 24 months; calls by an individual who intends to complete a sales presentation at a later face-to-face meeting; and calls for which the exclusive purpose is to poll or solicit the expression of ideas, opinions or votes.

The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division will enforce the law. Telemarketers who violate the law may face prosecution and/or fines and you can sue in a private legal action any telemarketer who violates the law.

You may register your telephone number with the do not call program or file a complaint against a telemarketer on line at: https://www.donotcall.gov/default.aspx or by calling the North Dakota Attorney's Office; Consumer Protection at 1-800-472-2600 within N.D. only.

(Some of the information included was provided by the North Dakota Attorney's Office; Consumer Protection Office).

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