There’s an illegal and downright annoying scam targeting senior citizens, and it looks like it’s here to stay. Medical alert companies have been using robocalling to con unsuspecting victims into ordering their not-so-free, “free” products.
Robocalling is when a perpetrator uses an auto dialer to call a large number of people at once. If the call is answered, a pre-recorded message will prompt listeners to connect with a live representative regarding a product. This helps telemarketers weed out uninterested or unavailable respondents, while targeting a large number of people for little to nothing.
This tactic has been around for nearly a decade and is commonly associated with telemarketing, political campaigns, and now, scams.
It may be annoying, but what really makes robocalling so bad?
Well, robocallers typically:
- Use fictitious company names or impersonate real companies
- Make up information: endorsements, statistics, how you got on their list
- Tell you something is free when it’s not
- Ask for personal information
- Use fake area codes to appear close by to the victim
- Ignore the National Do Not Call List
- Break basic telemarketing etiquette (i.e. calling during reasonable hours)
In 2013, numerous seniors complained of an aggressive medical alert robocalling campaign operating under various company names including: “Senior Emergency Care,” “Senior Safety Alert,” “Senior Safe Alert,” and “American Senior Benefits.” This campaign tricked the elderly into accepting a “free” medical alert device that secretly came with a $30 monthly maintenance fee.
These fraudsters where convincing. They gave themselves fake endorsements from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetic Association (ADA is not a real organization) and would even tell victims the product was ordered on their behalf from a loved one, they just needed to verify it with their personal and credit card information.
This scam didn’t just hurt older adults, but legitimate companies as well. American Senior Benefits was also the name of an actual insurance company. During the peak of the scam, the company had to post a bulletin on their website stating that they had no association with these scam artists.
By the time the FTC caught up with the real scammers, a company called LifeWatch Inc, they had already made over $13 million from their robocalling scheme. The FTC in conjunction with the Florida Attorney General temporarily froze their assets and sued them for deceptive and illegal practices.
LifeWatch is still in operation today.
What Should You Do to Avoid a Similar Scam?
The FTC recommends never answering an unknown number. Robocallers will usually not call back if they don’t reach a live person their first try. As always, never give out your personal information, especially your payment card information. A telltale sign of a scam is when a company requests payment information for a free product or service. If you are prompted for any of this information, hang up immediately.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.