Beware of ‘robo-call’ offers, sales

We’ve all dealt with them — the phone rings or lights up and caller ID either shows an unrecognizable number or no number at all.

It’s the dreaded robo-call. Today, not even cell phones are immune.

Most of these calls simply are annoyances that, if ignored, likely won’t even leave a message. Answer and you might lose 10 to 15 minutes of your life listening to a spiel until you can extract yourself, politely or otherwise, with no real damage done.

But some will prove to be a true scam or pressure sale for a product that’s not really needed.

Such is the case with a recent number of calls in Wisconsin, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

DATCP has received at least 17 written complaints, along with other reports, about automobile extended warranty sales calls in roughly the past two weeks.

These usually are automated calls that claim to extend the vehicle’s warranty but instead amount to service contracts that are not with the vehicle manufacturer but with an often shadowy third party, according to DATCP.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette also warned about these types of calls. He suggested:

— Never give out personal financial information to the caller.

— Get as much information about the caller as possible, such as company, time and date of call and the telephone number. If on the Federal Do Not Call Registry for more than 30 days, report the call immediately.

— Shop around before making any purchase.

— Make sure you know who will make the decision on what is covered.

— Check the seller and administrator before doing any business. Call the Michigan Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, at 877-765-8388, to see if any complaints are on file against either the seller or the service contract administrator.

This type of sales ploy is not new. In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission mailed refunds of more than $3 million to nearly 5,000 consumers who were tricked by robocalls into buying extended service contacts disguised as warranties, according to Wisconsin’s DATCP.

“Robo-calls using high-pressure sales tactics can mean trouble for Wisconsin consumers,” said Frank Frassetto, division administrator for Trade and Consumer Protection. “Watch for unsolicited phone calls that are vague about who they are and what they are selling or those that aggressively try to push products and services.”

For additional information, go to the Michigan AG’s web site at http://www.michigan.gov/ag or Wisconsin’s Consumer Protection Bureau site at http://datcp.wi.gov, send an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-422-7128.

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