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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Interview with Lauren Young

Aired June 19, 2002 - 07:43   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: A new twist to tell you about on an old scam, and it takes advantage of consumers who want to escape annoying telemarketers. One of the nation's largest phone companies is warning that con artists are getting people to give up personal information, claiming they can help you get help on do-not-call lists.

But there is one number you definitely don't want these guys to know, and joining us to explain how the scam works is Lauren Young of "Smartmoney" magazine -- Lauren, good morning.

LAUREN YOUNG, "SMARTMONEY" MAGAZINE: Hi, Daryn.

KAGAN: Trying to make us all smarter this morning.

YOUNG: And stop getting bad phone calls.

KAGAN: Absolutely. Look, the bad phone call is one thing, but the specific phone call, how does this scam work?

YOUNG: OK. This is a pretty widespread scam. They have had reports in about 20 states. What happens is someone calls your house and says, "Hi, I am from the National Association Against Fraud, and I'd like to add you to our do-not-call list."

KAGAN: It sounds good. It sounds great.

YOUNG: Yes. "But by the way, I need to confirm some information with you. Can I have your social security number, please?"

KAGAN: OK. Red flag. No, no, no.

YOUNG: Big red flag. Never give out your social security number to anyone who you don't know. I mean, an insurance company, fine, a credit card company to confirm your account, fine. But someone who you don't know, forget about it. There are more than 30 states who have do-not-call registries right now.

KAGAN: But we were talking about this. In Georgia, where I live, usually, the state actually organizes a system, where you get a thing in the mail saying if you don't want these telemarketers, just fill out this form. And you do give information, but I don't think I wrote down my social security number.

YOUNG: No. You are absolutely -- and in New York, where we are right now...

KAGAN: Right.

YOUNG: ... has the largest do-not-call registry. More the two million people have signed up. And if you go to the governor's office, if you go to Web sites in your state, any of the main ones, like the governor's office or consumer protection agencies, you can get some information about do-not-call registries.

KAGAN: OK. So there are ways to protect yourself.

YOUNG: Absolutely.

KAGAN: And there are certain things that you definitely do not do.

YOUNG: Well, one of the first things that you...

KAGAN: Right.

YOUNG: ... would want to do is contact the Direct Marketing Association. They are kind of the trade group for all of the direct marketers out there. And they have on their Web site some information about getting on a do-not-call list. You basically opt out of different kinds of solicitations all around the country. You do have to pay if you do it online, but if you send them a letter, it's for free.

KAGAN: OK. Any other tips that you can do?

YOUNG: Yes, there are quite a few actually.

KAGAN: OK.

YOUNG: You know, some of the phone services have these block boxes that you can use, so that's one thing. They are kind of weird though, because...

KAGAN: It's a black box?

YOUNG: A block box.

KAGAN: Oh, block box.

YOUNG: If you get a phone call, they basically block a phone call that they don't know who the person is.

KAGAN: Right.

YOUNG: And that's kind of awkward, because you are sitting there thinking, you know, for me -- my phone is unlisted.

KAGAN: Right.

YOUNG: So when I show up, I have to say, this is Lauren Young. And it's kind of annoying. KAGAN: Yes, I don't like that.

YOUNG: I don't like it, but let me tell you, it works.

KAGAN: It works, but then you lose all of your other friends, because nobody wants to...

YOUNG: That's right.

KAGAN: It's a good news, bad news kind of thing.

YOUNG: The other thing you can do, as I mentioned, is call the local consumer protection agencies. In New York, for example, if you sign on to this registry, I get absolutely no telemarketing calls.

KAGAN: Really?

YOUNG: None. My husband works at home. He is shocked. We get no phone calls, and it's great.

KAGAN: And how -- but see, we are not just in New York City. Of course, we have people watching all across the country.

YOUNG: Right.

KAGAN: How much places have things like that?

YOUNG: Well, 30 states, about 30 states have them.

KAGAN: All right.

YOUNG: And they really vary from state to state. The bigger states that have them, Texas, Illinois has a program that people really like a lot, Minnesota...

KAGAN: How do you find it? There is someone out there who is saying, I want that, but they don't know where to call.

YOUNG: Call your governor's office.

KAGAN: OK.

YOUNG: Call any of the -- like every state has a consumer protection board, so you want to call them. You know, basically you have to do a little research online, but it's pretty easy to find them. Actually on the Federal Trade Commission's Web site, they have one good comprehensive list that you can look at under telemarketing.

KAGAN: And just in general, when you are talking about giving information, a direction here. If someone calls you, you don't give the information out. But if you are calling somebody, it's OK to give the information sometimes?

YOUNG: Yes. For example, alumni associations, charities, you are still going to get phone calls from those people. Usually they call because you have given money in the past. So you have somewhat of a relationship with them. You know, there are always questions that you can ask like "Can I speak with your supervisor to verify this is...

KAGAN: Well, the scam artists can have a supervisor.

YOUNG: Right. Actually a great way to get the scam artists, besides hanging up on them...

KAGAN: Yes.

YOUNG: ... is to say something like, "Oh, well, I have already signed up for Governor Pataki's do-not-call registry in New York." And that kind of thwarts them. Or if you say, "Oh, I live in Georgia, and we have a do-not-call registry." They will get a little...

KAGAN: Just try to sound a little bit educated.

YOUNG: Exactly.

KAGAN: And there are certain people that they are trying to target, perhaps the elderly or people who aren't going to be as aware of different programs and who they should be giving the information to.

YOUNG: It is the elderly, and they say this group is from Canada. So far they haven't actually had any money stolen they can tell, but it does concern Verizon, which has issued a press release about this, and some of the other major telephone carriers.

KAGAN: And just briefly, by giving your information out to the wrong person, just how much of a nightmare can you be creating for yourself?

YOUNG: Well, we have all heard about identity fraud.

KAGAN: Yes.

YOUNG: And the nightmare of recreating your identity, it's not worth it. By the way, those groups that tell you they will help you prevent identify fraud, like insurance against it...

KAGAN: Yes.

YOUNG: ... also a scam. To be talked about next time, but don't buy that.

KAGAN: Forget that. I also would like to talk to you sometime about why do people telemarket anyway? I mean, have you ever heard of anybody actually taking up an offer and not slamming down the phone and saying, "Don't call me anymore!"

YOUNG: Pitney Bowles did a survey; 27 percent I think it is of Americans actually like to talk to telemarketers...

KAGAN: No!

YOUNG: ... and let them go through the whole thing -- 27 percent.

KAGAN: And I thought I had a lonely, useless life, but apparently there are people out there doing more than just watching C- Span on Saturday night. OK. Lauren Young, thank you so much for the tips.

YOUNG: Thank you, Daryn.

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