Does Utah really deserve its reputation as the fraud capital of the country?

That's hard to believe in view of the way scams are on the increase all over the nation. As a case in point, take what's happening just in terms of the deceptive peddling of goods and services over the telephone alone.The Federal Trade Commission estimates that Americans lose about $1 billion a year through deceptive telephone sales practices. Other organizations say the total is even higher.

So serious has the problem become that a new organization has been formed to combat it. Called the Alliance Against Fraud in Telemarketing, the organization includes representatives of the FTC, National Consumers League, Council of Better Business Bureaus, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and trade associations representing telephone marketing firms.

Want to avoid getting bilked by con artists? Here are a few tips on how to avoid getting taken in by telephone callers promising more than they can or will deliver:

- Ask for the name, telephone number and address of the company contacting you.

- Check out such organizations by calling your Better Business Bureau, local consumer protection office or state attorney general's office.

- Don't be pressured into giving out your credit card number over the telephone. Don't provide your card number to anyone whose reputation you are not sure of.

- Be wary of deadlines for accepting offers. Don't rush into decisions.

- If in doubt, hang up.

Fortunately, there's a way for consumers to get their names removed from the lists of at least some firms making telephone solicitations. Just send a letter containing your name, address, and telephone number with a request for their deletion to:

Telephone Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, 6 East 43rd St., New York, N.Y. 10017.

Meanwhile, keep in mind the cardinal rule for avoiding not just telephone scams but all kinds of fraud: Anything that sounds too good to be true usually is.