Avoid The “Free” Medical Alert Scam

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Updated: June 5, 2022


senior citizen scams

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

In previous articles, Medical Alert Advice has discussed the rise of telephone scammers targeting senior citizens in an attempt to obtain their credit card and/or bank information.  One such scam continuously returns to the news, and it involves medical alert devices with the all too common free life alert for seniors pitch, which does have monthly service fees.

How the Scam Works

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. Knowing the Life Alert costs can help you in this scam.  In order to claim the alert button, they must provide bank or credit card information so the company can collect the monthly monitoring fees for the emergency response system.  There are some variants to this scam, but the bottom line is to never offer your banking or credit card information over the phone to solicitors.

In another version of this senior scam, 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.

One 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 was nipped in the bud.  In July 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued a New York company called Lifewatch USA 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 USA 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 gone others will pop up to take its place. If you receive a call similar to this, the AARP recommends you do the following.

What To Do If You Receive A Scam Call

  • 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.

Another scam to watch out for is companies using the widely recognized name Life Alert emergency response system. In these life alert scams, they will claim the same drill as above; , that you have received a free Life Alert button and you will need to provide your financial information to get the monthly monitoring services from the call center. In this instance, they are simply going to steal your credit information and not actually sign you up for any Life Alert system. They may use the name of other popular medical alert companies such as Medical Guardian, Connect America, America Senior Safety and so on. Again, hang up immediately if you receive one of these type of phone calls. Also, don’t be fooled if it shows that they are calling you from one of Life Alert’s phone numbers. They may be able to spoof the number that shows up on your caller ID.

Be sure to check out our Life Station reviews as well as Medical Guardian reviews, in addition to other provider’s medical alert ratings for examples of high quality companies you can count on. Using trusted providers is more important than ever to seniors as shown here: Support for Physician Alert Devices Rises to 79% Globally