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California Telemarketing Fraud Laws

Phone and telemarketing fraud refers to any type of fraudulent scheme in which a criminal communicates with the potential victim via the telephone. These can come in the form of credit card fraud, international lottery scams, or investment rip offs, just to name a few.

There are both federal and California state telemarketing laws regulating phone solicitations. Consumers often report telemarketing fraud to federal agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), but it's also important to understand how California telemarketing fraud laws apply and how they can be enforced.

California's general theft statute is not specific to the method of telemarketing, but it's still applicable. Among other things, it criminalizes fraud where the following elements apply:

  1. One acts knowingly and by design;
  2. One uses any false or fraudulent representation or pretense;
  3. It results in the defrauding of any other person;
  4. It involves money, labor or real or personal property.

Also, it's a separate crime in California when one receives money for the purpose of paying for services, labor, materials or equipment but then willfully diverts such funds for other uses, which often happens in cases of telemarketing fraud. In addition to violating California's criminal fraud laws, telemarketing fraud is also subject to civil lawsuits under California's civil and business codes which can result in injunctions, fines, or other civil penalties.

Victims of Telemarketing Fraud

Although consumers typically file suit in federal court under federal telemarketing laws, California law also allows consumers to bring a small claims case against the telemarketer in state court to get an injunction. If a consumer receives further solicitations within 30 days after an injunction is issued, he or she can sue again and ask for a civil penalty of up to $1,000. In a state court case, consumers also have the ability to sue under federal laws which can provide up to $500 in fines for each call received by a consumer after being placed on the National Do Not Call Registry. Penalties can be higher if the court finds that the telemarketer willfully or knowingly broke the law.

California Telemarketing Fraud Laws At A Glance

You can find more information on California telemarketing fraud laws by consulting the chart below.

Code Section

Penal Code Section 484 (general theft/fraud statute)

Penal Code Section 484b (fraudulent diversion of funds)

Business and Professions Code Section 17511.3 (requiring registration for telephonic sellers)

Business and Professions Code Section 17511.5 (requiring telephonic sellers to provide specific disclosures at the time of any sale)

Business and Professions Code Section 17591 (addressing misuse of the "do not call" registry)

Business and Professions Code Section 17593 (allowing civil actions for "do not call" violations)

Civil Code Section 1770 (prohibiting certain unfair business practices)

Enforcement Agencies California Attorney General, County District Attorneys, California Public Utilities Commission, City Attorneys, FTC, FCC
Possible Punishments

General Theft/Fraud: This can be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in county jail.

Fraudulent Diversion of Funds: This is a misdemeanor if the amount diverted is less than $2,350, but in either case it is punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and by a fine of up to $10,000.

Civil Violations: These can be punishable by orders of injunction, civil fines, loss of business licenses, and other penalties.

Disclosures Telemarketers must disclose that it's a sales call before sales pitch begins.
Robocalls These are legal, but only if you consented or had a prior business relationship with the company or for public safety alerts. Calls can only come between 9am and 9 pm.
License Telemarketers must have a license to operate or call into California.
Do Not Call Registry? California uses the National Do Not Call Registry

Related Resources For California Telemarketing Fraud Laws

Get Professional Legal Help Defending Against Your Telemarketing Fraud Charges

If you've been accused of telemarketing fraud, you could be facing a number of criminal and civil penalties under both federal and state law. Having a skilled criminal defense attorney with experience in fraud cases can improve your chances of either negotiating a plea deal or obtaining a favorable verdict at trial. If you've been charged, don't delay; call a California criminal defense attorney today.

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