Avoid The “Free” Medical Alert Scam

Advice For Seniors

Avoid The “Free” Medical Alert Scam
senior citizen scams

SCAM ALERT! Telemarketing calls to seniors about FREE medical alert device

In previous articles, we have discussed the rise of telephone scammers targeting senior citizens in an attempt to obtain their credit card and/or bank information.  One such scam has recently returned to the news, and it involves medical alert devices. 

The scam goes something like this.  A senior gets a phone call with a recorded message gravely announcing the rates of injury and death resulting from falls in the home.  It states that the call recipient can press 1 for more information.  Doing so results in being connected to a telemarketer, who will state someone they know, who wishes to remain anonymous, has paid for them to receive a free medical alert system.  In order to claim it, they must provide bank or credit card information so the company can collect the monthly monitoring fees.  There are some variants.

For example, the telemarketer may assert that either the individual’s physician or the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has paid for them to have the device, or they may claim that taking advantage of the deal grants access to thousands of dollars in grocery coupons.  Some telemarketers go so far as to state their medical alert system was recommended by the American Heart Association, National Institute on Aging, American Diabetes Association, and the American Red Cross.

A recent recording is noted as stating, “If you or a family member are 60 years old or older, you now qualify under the new National Senior Assistance Program to receive $3000 in free grocery savings certificates.  They can be used at over a hundred major grocery chains across the U.S.”  While it sounds enticing, it is all a lie.

The good news is that this particular scam may finally be nipped in the bud.  In July 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued a New York company called Lifewatch for orchestrating this illegal telemarketing campaign, stating they must be held accountable “for the abusive and deceptive practices of its telemarketers.”    The FTC possesses phone scripts and other evidence to prove that Lifewatch was fully aware of the lies their telemarketers were using in an attempt to prey on the fears of senior citizens.

Unfortunately, while this particular scam is going away, others will pop up to take its place.  If you receive a call similar to this, the AARP recommends you do the following.

  • Hang up immediately. Do not press a key to speak to a live person.
  • If you do speak to a live telemarketer, never provide them with any personal information. This includes, your name, phone number, date of birth, bank account number, credit card numbers, Medicare number, or Social Security number.
  • Understand that having Caller ID will not necessarily help you determine genuine calls from scams. Telemarketers are able to fool these systems with fake phone numbers.  For example, someone calling from a foreign country could easily disguise their number so that it pops up on your caller ID as a number local to you.
  • When you receive scam calls, report them to the FTC by calling 1-800-382-1222 or visiting ftc.gov/complaint.