Sussex County Delaware

Can I Call YOU
Back at Dinner?
Sussex Snapshots -- Feb. 6, 2003

SC Online Editor

NOTE: Kerin Magill is Content Editor of Sussex County Online. Her column, "Sussex Snapshots", appears each Thursday on this site.

Kerin Magill, Sussex County Online

Delaware's Attorney General, M. Jane Brady, has a theory about those dinnertime nuisances called telemarketing calls.

Brady told members of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2003 that she -- like most people -- used to assume that the reason for the dinner hour pattern was that the telemarketers figured people would be home.

But then, she said, she really started to analyze it. "Who do telemarketers often target?" she asked. Answer: senior citizens. Next question: "What's the loneliest time of day for seniors living alone?" Answer: the dinnner hour.

Brady may be onto something. And frankly, when she said it, I almost felt sick to my stomach. We all know seniors who, in their loneliness, will talk to just about anyone -- heck, for many, a trip to the doctor's office is a social event. Anyone who would take advantage of that is evil, in my way of thinking.

With record numbers of retirees moving into Sussex County, scams against the elderly are a real concern. One business owner at the Chamber meeting asked Brady what recourse she had when telemarketers seeking donations send pledge cards after speaking to her mother, who suffers from dementia -- even though her mother didn't agree to pledge. Brady's answer, in a nutshell: Don't pay it!

It's amazing how telemarketers can intimidate even those of us who like to think we're pretty savvy. Sometimes, they get you by laying on guilt. Sometimes, they just keep talking and don't give you a chance to protest.

The bottom line, to avoid being scammed, either on the phone or otherwise, boils down to advice Brady said her grandmother gave her: If it sounds to good to be true, it is.

Another red flag, according to Brady: "If somebody says to you 'This deal might not be here tomorrow,' they might not be either."

And it might sound obvious, but it's amazing how many people fall for this: You've won such and such, and if you'll just send $2,500 to this bank account in Jamaica, you can collect your prize. Oh, and don't tell anyone else about this.

Particularly in tough economic times, it seems, some people just can't seem to grasp the adage Brady learned from her grandmother. Guess what these companies call the lists of people who they've managed to lure into their webs -- which they sell to each other? "Patsy lists." That should tell you everything you need to know right there. According to Brady, a disproportionate number of names on these lists has one common denominator: age.

Brady said consumer fraud in Delaware is a relatively small problem, in comparison to other states. "If you lie to somebody in Delaware, EVERYBODY doesn't do business with you," she said. Unfortunately, there are exceptions -- particularly in the telemarketing arena -- because these anonymous callers could be invading your home from anywhere.

Personally, I've adopted a Zero Tolerance policy toward telemarketers. I generally don't answer the phone between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. If, however, I slip and one catches me as my pasta's about to boil over, I've adopted this routine. "Oh, hi. OK, if you could just give me your phone number and tell me when YOU'LL be eating dinner. I'll be sure to get back to you then."

I guarantee a pause in the telemarketing patter. Try it. You'll be amazed how good it'll feel.

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