Consumers, Law Enforcement, Major Corporation Join Forces to Combat Telemarketing Fraud
AARP, Attorney General Mike Fisher and Bell Atlantic Stage
Pennsylvania's First Telemarketing Fraud "Reverse Boiler
July 23, 1998
PHILADELPHIA -- To sound the alarm, a "reverse boiler room" is being
held today at the Bell Atlantic Tower in downtown Philadelphia.
"Operation Freedom Rings" is a collaborative effort to alert victims and
potential victims that their phone numbers appear on telephone lists used
by criminals for telemarketing scams.
Spinning off on a boiler room operation, (a phone center commonly used
by fraudulent telemarketers), the "reverse boiler room" will use a phone
center to warn those most vulnerable to telemarketing fraud.
More than 100 AARP volunteers, Bell Atlantic Pioneers, James Earl Jones,
and the Attorney General will be calling thousands of Pennsylvania
consumers whose names appear on "mooch lists" the street name for the
con artists' lists of names and phone numbers of those most susceptible to
According to the FBI, a good "mooch list" contains names of known
victims who are considered ideal repeat victims. "Mooch lists" have been
sold on the black market for up to $200 per name. These lists are critical
to the proliferation of fraudulent telemarketers who defraud consumers out
of $40 billion annually.
"People need to know that they are being targeted in a calculated way by
criminals with telephones," said Helen Boosalis, Immediate Past Chair of
the AARP Board of Directors. "They need to know that fraudulent
telemarketers are criminals who are out to steal their life savings and rob
them of their dignity."
"Operation Freedom Rings" volunteers will inform people about the most
popular scams being used by telephone criminals, including illegal
sweepstakes, phony prizes, sham investments, and non-existent charities.
In addition, volunteers will provide people with consumer-friendly
information about how they can protect themselves from these serious
"Fraudulent telemarketers always build a sense of urgency and use it as a
weapon-often demanding that people send money immediately by courier
or wire service," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher.
"Legitimate telemarketers should always allow the person time to make a
decision and request more information without feeling pressured by the
"To best protect yourself, we recommend asking the caller for written
information before making a decision on any phone solicitation," Fisher
Pennsylvania consumers made the fifth highest number of complaints to the
National Fraud Information Center in 1997. Pennsylvania's large number
of older persons are at-risk because older persons are most often the target
of telemarketing fraud. AARP research suggests that more than half of the
names found on "mooch lists" are individuals over the age of 50. Of the
140,000 telemarketing firms in the country, up to 10 percent, or 14,000
may be engaging in fraudulent activity.
"Conducting business by telephone is a stable and vital part of our
economy. For many, especially those who lack mobility, it is the only way
to conduct business and personal transactions. That's why we're not going
to make it easy for those who want to use the telephone to commit their
crimes," said Toby Webb, executive vice president of Bell Atlantic.
Webb added, "As the single largest telephone company in the mid-Atlantic
region that provides service to tens of millions of consumers, Bell Atlantic
has a lot at stake in the battle to fight telemarketing fraud. By joining
forces with AARP and Attorney General Fisher, we can work together and
provide Pennsylvania consumers with the tools they need so they won't fall
prey to the criminal call."
"Operation Freedom Rings" is being launched by AARP, Pennsylvania's
Office of the Attorney General, Bell Atlantic, and the Federal Bureau of
Investigation's Philadelphia Office. It is part of AARP's multi-year public
education effort on telemarketing fraud which has contributed to law
enforcement making over 1,000 arrests. Because this type of fraud poses a
serious threat to the economic security of older Americans, AARP strives
to educate its members and the public about not falling for a telephone line.