Sometimes, when you are retired and may be living alone for the first time in your life, that telephone can be a godsend or the bane of your existence.  When it sits there for days on end and never rings, it can affect your mood and state of mind.  But we have to beware that we don’t let the phone become our salvation when people abuse it for solicitation to sell you things that you don’t need.

Phone solicitation is not just a problem for a smart senior shoppers.  You can find web pages and books dedicated to ways to turn a phone solicitation call into a joke for your amusement.  But people cheating you out of your money is no joke.

So, we need some guidelines for how to tell a legitimate phone call from a reputable company that you want to buy from or if we are about to be ripped off.  If you can get your arms around the process of shopping via the phone or online, you are not only smart senior shoppers, but you are making yourself “not a victim,” and that’s a good feeling.  Here are some tips for resisting them:

  • If you didn’t need it before they called, you don’t need it now. Slick salespeople love to “create a need” in you in their opening comments.  You know the things you do need and don’t need, so if the salesman on the phone creates a need you never knew you had – you never had it.
  • Any offer that you have to take right now is a bad offer. This ploy is a one-two punch.  First, it’s an offer that sounds too wonderful to be true.  The reason is, it says it’s not true.  They try to close the deal with a false sense of urgency by making you feel you have to take their offer.  You don’t.
  • Only do business with companies you already know. If you never heard of this company calling you, tell them that you have a firm policy of only working with companies you trust.  There is no answer to that.
  • A salesman is not your best friend. A slick salesperson will get chummy and try to make friends hook you.  You don’t need this kind of friend because his real goal is to get your money.
  • You are the boss of your charitable giving. Decide who you want to support entirely on your own.  Then give to those charities, and that’s the end of it.  If someone pushes you for a donation, tell them it’s a closed list, and they can’t get on it.
  • You probably did not win a special prize. You did not win a reward if you didn’t enter the contest in the first place.  That’s a scam to get their foot in the door then sell you useless or nonexistent products to get your money.
  • You can have a policy too. A good firm policy is, “I never buy anything from anyone on the phone unless I initiated the call.”  It’s a policy.  You can’t violate it, and by sticking with it, the phone solicitor has no way of getting around that defense.
  • The do-not-call list. Your state and federal governments have programs where you can register your name and phone number, so solicitors are forbidden by law.  Get on those lists.  Then if an unwanted sales call comes in, they can get in a lot of trouble.

As a rule, you should use the internet or the phone for shopping if you initiated the purchase.  Whether it’s an email or a phone call, if they called you and didn’t ask them to, don’t buy them from that solicitor.  This takes a lot of the decision making out of the process.

There are plenty of legitimate business people, charities, and retailers who will do business honestly.  Feel free to have little or no patience for anyone who calls you to sell you something and start getting taken off their lists now.  When you do that, before long, the solicitors will realize you are not a victim, and they will move on and leave you alone. Your phone might ring less often, but when it does, it will be someone you do want to talk to- and that’s worth waiting for.