Wisconsin Telemarketing Fraud Laws
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Telemarketing fraud is illegal in Wisconsin. For cases that occur within the state, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection and Department of Justice Consumer Protection and Antitrust Unit investigate and prosecute this crime. However, as telemarketing fraud often crosses state borders, it's typically a federal crime that is investigated and prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Protecting Yourself from Telemarketing Fraud
Educate yourself about telemarketing fraud and take these preventative steps to protect yourself from telemarketing fraud.
- Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry online or verify your phone is on the registry by calling 1-888-382-1222 from that phone
- File a complaint against Telemarketers or Do Not Call list violators online or contact the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-422-7128.
- Don't give out any personal information to telemarketers (Social Security Number, bank account numbers, name of your spouse or pets, etc).
- Don't rush into over-the-phone purchases, for example, because the caller says the offer will "expire" or you "must act now.” If a caller pressures you to buy anything, just hang up.
- If a caller asks you to send money by check or a wire transfer over the phone, be extremely wary and hang up.
Wisconsin Telemarketing Fraud Laws: Statutes
Wisconsin's telemarketing laws are outlined below.
Wisconsin Administrative Code: Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (ATCP) Chapter 127 - Direct Marketing: Telephone Solicitations and Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 100 - Marketing & Trade Practices
What Is Prohibited?
The Wisconsin Telemarketing Sales Rule covers most telephone solicitations to Wisconsin consumers, no matter where the call originates. The rule includes all of the following:
- Requires certain disclosures to consumers, including at the beginning of the call the name of the company and caller, that the caller is selling something, and what goods or services are being offered. Before a sale or payment is made, the seller must disclose the nature and number of goods or services sold, the total cost to buy and receive them, the sales conditions, the name of the company, its mailing address or phone number, and the cancellation/exchange policy. These disclosures must be in writing, which can be sent when the goods/services are delivered. A cancellation deadline must be at least seven days after delivery.
- Note: If the primary language of the sales call isn't English, then the disclosures and any written agreement signed by the consumer must be in English and the primary language used.
- Prohibits misrepresentations about many things, including the seller's identity, location, the intended length of the call, the terms of the phone transaction, the cancellation policy, affiliation with the government, the number of people offered the sale, limited time of sale, or any other misrepresentation.
- Prohibits deceptive sales practices such as threatening or harassing consumers, repeatedly calling, or calling consumers who've asked the company not call them.
- Prohibits calls before 8 am or after 9 pm
- Requires violation prevention by implementing written procedures reasonably designed to stop violations.
- Provides a three-day right to cancel
- Prohibits the unauthorized withdrawal of funds from a consumer's bank account without express written authorization or recorded oral authorization with the specifics.
- Regulates prize promotions, which can't violate the lottery laws, must have certain notices, and the material terms can't be misrepresented in a telephone transaction.
No one can obtain a telephone record of a Wisconsin resident without the customer's consent by making a false statement as a telephone service provider agent or customer or by providing a fraudulent document. Nor can they ask another person to get the record in violation of this or sell telephone records.
Telemarketing law violators can be fined between $25 and $5,000 for each offense and jailed for a year. The state can seek an injunction to stop the actions and bring a civil forfeiture action for $100 to $10,000 for each violation of the law or injunction.
In addition, anyone who suffered a financial loss because of telemarketers' bad acts can sue them in civil court for damages to recover twice the amount of his or her loss, court costs, and reasonable attorneys' fees.
Getting, selling, or receiving phone records without the number owner's consent is a Class I felony for one telephone record, a Class G felony for 2-9 records, or a Class E felony for more than 10 phone records. The court can order a violator to pay the victim for his or her financial loss suffered because of the violation, or $1,000, whichever is greater. The penalties by felony class are: Class I - at most 3.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, Class G - at most 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine, and Class E felony - at most 15 years in prison and a of $50,000 fine.
If you or a loved one is facing a telemarketing fraud charge, you should contact an experienced Wisconsin criminal defense attorney or a public defender, if assigned by the court, for help.
Note: State laws change regularly -- it's important to verify the laws you're researching.