The Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Nebraska, South Dakota, the Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa says it is experiencing a significant increase in calls from consumers that are stating that someone had called to inform them that a medical alert device, similar to “Life Alert” had been purchased for them by a friend or family member. Residents are being told that here is “no cost whatsoever” for the recipient and it will be delivered at no charge. South Dakota residents appear to be experiencing the highest volume of these calls at this time.
On Wednesday, the BBB had about 30 different senior citizens report that they had been contacted. Several stated that they were called twenty-five times in one day. These calls are pre-recorded robo messages. They are instructed to press #1 to accept or #5 to decline.
Many seniors told the BBB that they are unsure of the company name. They describe receiving calls from “Med Alert,” or “Life Alert,” although the actual message does not clearly identify any company’s name, but simply states they are calling in regards to delivering the “free medical alert system” directly to the recipient’s home. A phone number is provided but, in most cases, when you try to call the number there is no response or you receive a message saying the number has been discontinued. It appears they are using temporary cell phones to make the calls because several different numbers have been given.
In many cases being reported across the country, seniors who have provided their bank account or credit card information to “verify” their identity have found they were charged the monthly service fee, usually around $35.00, then the system never arrived or they had trouble returning it and obtaining a refund. These companies appear to be using names that are similar to well-known marketers of medical alert devices in an effort to confuse consumers. Life Alert, the California company made famous by its “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” advertising, is suing two businesses it says are using its name in “robo-calls” to gain new customers.
The BBB says if you didn’t originate the call, you should be extremely cautious about giving out any of your personal information over the phone, regardless of what they say it’s for. The BBB cautions consumers to be on the lookout for slight name changes, as well as implied endorsements or affiliations with legitimate entities.
The BBB also advises consumers to watch for the following additional red flags when dealing with telemarketers or robo calls:
. “Free” Offers- Be wary of “free” offers that require you to pay a handling charge or other fees. In the case of medical alert systems, ask if there are additional monthly charges. If the telemarketer says a friend or family member bought the unit, ask for the name of the person and verify with them before agreeing to anything.
. Scare Tactics- Being trapped in your own home with no way to call for help can be a scary situation for anyone, but for many seniors, it can be a realistic scenario. Nonetheless, don’t fall for scare tactics.
. Calls for Immediate Action- Listen for language like “This offer is good for today only!”
. Reluctance to Answer Questions Directly, Provide Contact Info, or Complete Offer Details- Tell the caller you will not provide any information or make any decisions until you get all details in writing.
. Robo calls- You can also file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at: https://esupport.fcc.gov/ccmsforms/form1088.action?form_type=1088C. While the FCC cannot award monetary or other damages, filing a complaint allows them to investigate violators.
Consumers who receive these calls regarding a medical alert system can report them to the BBB at 800-649-6814, BBB’s toll free Senior Line at 877-637-3334 or to your state’s Attorney General.