Missouri Telemarketing Fraud Laws
Most telemarketing fraud is considered a federal crime because it's often committed across state lines. The federal agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting telemarketing fraud is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). However, states, including Missouri, also have telemarketing fraud laws and will prosecute intra-state telemarketing fraud.
Protecting Yourself from Telemarketing Fraud
Prevention is important to prevent telemarketing fraud. Some of the steps you can take include:
- Registering for the Missouri No Call List online or by calling 1-866-662-255
- Filing a complaint against a telemarketer breaking the law
- Never giving out personal information, such as your Social Security or bank account numbers, names of spouses and other family members, etc.
- Never rushing into purchasing anything over the phone. If you feel pressured, hang up.
Missouri Telemarketing Fraud Laws: Statutes
The following table outlines Missouri's main telemarketing laws.
Missouri Revised Statutes (MRS) - Chapter 407: Merchandising Practices
MRS - Section 385.208: Deceptive Practices
What Is Prohibited?
Telemarketers are legally required to make certain disclosures promptly, including:
- That it's a sales call
- The telemarketer's name and company
- What's being sold
- THat no purchase is required to be entered into a prize promotion
- If the call is being made by a recorded voice, the consumer must be told that
- If asking for contributions by phone, the caller must disclose the net percentage of contributions that go to the organization the money is for
Before the consumer pays for anything sold by telemarketing, the telemarketer must disclose the following:
- The telemarketer's name and address or phone number where he or she or the seller can be reached
- The total cost and quantity of merchandise being sold
- Any restrictions to buying or receiving the merchandise
- How to refund, cancel, or exchange the item or if it's permitted to do any of those
- Information about the investment opportunity, such as benefits, land price, location, etc.
- Prize promotion elements including odds of winning, conditions to redeem prize, no purchase required to win, and information on how to enter without buying, such as address or phone number to write or call
Telemarketers are prohibited from misrepresenting, directly or impliedly, any of the following:
- The merchandise being sold and its performance, quality, or basic characteristics
- The prize, including its market value, the number of each prize to be awarded, and the date when the prize will be awarded
It's illegal for a telemarketer to do any of the following:
- Misrepresent material facts (as stated above)
- Threaten, intimidate, or use foul language
- Annoy or harass a consumer by calling repeatedly
- Knowingly call a consumer who previously said he or she doesn't want telemarketing calls by that seller or who is on the no call list
- Call before 8 am or after 9 pm local time for the consumer
- Request or receive money in advance to remove derogatory information from or improve a consumer's credit history (i.e. blackmail or extortion) or to get back money lost in a prior telemarketing transaction (exception: attorneys can still be paid in advance for this)
- Take money from a consumer's bank account without the express permission of the consumer, to be done properly the telemarketer must have either express written or oral authorization where the consumer must know the date(s) & amount of the draft(s), the company's name, and the number to call with questions. The telemarketer must also provide the refund procedures if written confirmation of the transaction was inaccurate.
- Get a courier to obtain consumer's payment, unless the merchandise or investment is delivered with the opportunity to inspect before payment is collected
- Assist any telemarketer when you know that the telemarketer is violating any of the telemarketing laws
- Use any method to block or circumvent a consumer's caller identification service
Violating any part of the telemarketing laws (MRS Section 407.1070 to 407.1085) can result in a conviction of either the lowest, Class D, felony, or the highest misdemeanor, Class A. Class D felonies can result in a prison term of up to 4 years whereas Class A misdemeanors can lead to up to 1 year in jail. In addition, the violator can be fined up to $5,000 or a fine equal to triple what was gained out of the telemarketing, without an upper limit.
In addition to criminal penalties described above, consumers who suffer a loss or harm from unlawful telemarketing can recover actual and punitive damages, attorney's fees, court costs, and more in a civil case.
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- it's important to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Handling any criminal charge is often a difficult task. If you find yourself facing any fraud charge, you should contact an experienced Missouri criminal defense attorney or public defender for assistance.