Other Voices: Combating sales techniques with knowledge
The information provided below should help everyone, in particular the elderly and the vulnerable, to learn their legal rights to avoid consumer scams. This information applies to solicitations received by telephone, in person, over the Internet or by fax machine.
1) You have the right to say no.
2) You have the right to deny entry to your home to strangers selling products door to door. Not only are you fair pray for unscrupulous sales persons, you could become a target for burglary, theft, identity theft, home invasion and physical attack. Ask to see and write down the information on their business permits or drivers licenses, including their names, addresses, telephone numbers and license numbers, before letting them into your home (if you decide to let them in).
3) You have the right to refuse to speak to people who call you on the telephone and try to convince you that you must participate in their latest and greatest “deal,” whether it be investment offers, credit card offers or purchasing products. To stop these marketing calls, you can register your telephone number with the National Do-Not-Call-Registry managed by the Federal Trade Commission. To register, call 1-800-382-1222 or visit their Web site, http://www.donot call.gov. You can also remove your name from telephone and mailing lists by writing to Direct Marketing Association, Mail Preference Service, Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512 or go to their Web site, http://www.dmaconsumers.org/offemaillist.html.
4) Resist pressure to buy anything right now. You have the right to ask that a trusted friend or family member be present to listen to the sales pitch before you agree to buy anything. Under California law, you have three business days to legally cancel a purchase contract or home service or repair contract made in your home or in a temporary business place, such as a convention center (CC ¤ 1689.6 (a)). You must send them written notice within the three business day period if you decide to cancel the purchase contract. Make a copy of your written notice canceling the contract as well as proof of the date it was mailed, in case you need it later as evidence.
5) Don’t pay for anything by cash unless the cost is minimal (such as purchasing Girl Scout cookies). If you paid by check and change your mind, you can request that your bank place a stop payment on the check. For work such as home improvements and home repairs, require a written contract for the cost of the work to be performed, and check references and licenses prior to allowing the work to begin. Don’t pay in advance for promised home repairs or home improvements (again, unless the cost is minimal). Never pay more than the maximum allowed by law (usually 10 percent of the repair price or $1,000, whichever is less) before the work is completed.
6) Never provide personal information, such as your birth date or Social Security number, to anyone trying to sell you a product or service over the telephone, by door to door, by the Internet or by fax. Also, carefully guard your bank account and credit card information. This could save you from possible identity theft.
7) Don’t be forced to make a quick decision. Slow down, take your time and investigate the product or service being offered. Most fraud occurs because the “victim” is talked into making a “rushed” decision.
8) Don’t say yes if the sales pitch doesn’t sound right or you aren’t sure about your decision. Follow your instincts, which are usually right. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
9) Don’t be too trusting. Remember, appearances can be deceiving. Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings, particularly when your decision could effect your financial security or personal safety.
10) Be careful, and remember, you have the right to say No!
Financial abuse is a form of elder abuse. For more information, you can contact local law enforcement, an attorney or the following resources: Senior Legal Hotline at 1-800-772-1213 or visit their Web site, http://www.senior legalhotline.org, for legal advice to seniors; the California Attorney General’s Office at 1-888-436-3600 visit their Web site, http://www.ag.ca.gov, for their elder abuse reporting hotline; or the State Bar of California senior information hotline at 1-888-460-7364 visit their Web site, http://www.calbar.ca.gov.
Some of the Information contained in this article was obtained from the Seniors & The Law pamphlet published by the State Bar of California (2006).
Nanci G. Clinch is a Nevada City attorney.
Also see Clinch’s column on getting inside a saleman’s head here: https://www.theunion.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artikkel?NoCache=1&Dato=20070609&Kategori=OPINION&Lopenr=106090131&Ref=AR
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