Your Legal Rights: Don’t dial “1” to stop bogus calls

Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson

It can happen like this: "Ted" answers his phone. A pre-recorded voice instructs him to press "1" to stop future calls or "2" to speak with a live person. Ted presses "1" because he wants the calls to stop.

"Beth" receives a similar call. She presses "2," intending to tell the caller to stop calling. In both cases, the call immediately disconnects. Neither "Ted" nor "Beth" ever speaks with a live person.

Pressing one of these numbers may seem harmless, but doing so may lead to an increase in calls. Here's why:

Scam artists often use dialing machines to place calls using a number generator. The automated dialer does not know when it dials a number whether or not that specific phone number is active. Answering such a call and then pressing "1" or "2" in response indicates that the number is valid and that someone has picked up the call. The scammer then may call again, knowing there is a good chance the call will be answered, in an effort to commit a financial scam. Or, the scammer may place your number on a list of "live" phone numbers he sells to other scammers.

If you get unwanted calls, the most effective approach is to simply hang up without speaking. Do not press any buttons, which just confirms that your number is active.

Unfortunately, given the ease with which such calls can be placed with modern technology, there is no quick or easy way to end these types of calls. These calls are almost always made by people located outside Minnesota and often outside the United States. People should report these calls to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has the authority to enforce laws regarding unwanted calls and work with international law enforcement authorities to curb financial scams. You may contact the FTC as follows:

Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW,Washington, D.C., 20580. Call the FTC toll free at 877-382-4357 or go to TTY: 866-653-4261.

For more information about these and other scams, you may contact the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office at: Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, 445 Minnesota St., Suite 1400, St. Paul, MN 55101. Call 651-296-3353 or go to TTY: 651-297-7206.

— Contact the Office of Minnesota Attorney General by calling 651-296-3353 (TTY 651-297-7206) or write to Office of the Minnesota Attorney General, 445 Minnesota St., Suite 1400, St. Paul, MN  55101. More information can be found at the website.

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