Most people have seen television commercials advertising medical alert devices that will send help when a senior experiences a medical emergency. Legitimate medical alert companies have proved to be a lifesaver for some, but be wary when you select your system. There are a number of scams designed to prey upon the fears and disabilities of the elderly.
Scammers are in the business of manipulating and defrauding seniors to disclose their private information. Once the senior’s private information is obtained, it is then used to commit identity theft and drain bank accounts. Medical alert scams can take on many forms, including mailers and telephone calls. Seniors may receive an excessive amount of unwanted calls and junk mail, all attempting to convince them to disclose their personal information.
In some cases, the caller may attempt to gain the senior’s confidence by claiming that the medical alert system has already been paid for by a friend or family member and say that payment information must be provided as a means to cover the fees associated with delivery or setup. Once the private information is provided, the scammer may then begin to charge the account for unwanted or undelivered services.
1. Free offers
A free trial usually means that the consumer is eligible to try a service or product for free. Most people understand that free trials are usually promoted as a means of enticing the consumer to pay or sign up for the service when the free trial ends. Most seniors don’t realize that they have actually already signed up for a paid service or product under the guise of a free version or trial.
As far as free offers over the phone and email, regardless of how enticing the product or service may seem, a legitimate organization will never call or email to ask for bank account numbers, debit or credit card numbers, or Social Security numbers. The old adage is true: If an offer seems too good to be true, more than likely, it probably is.
2. Call spoofing
Some seniors who were previously scammed reported that their telephone’s caller ID displayed a local phone number when they received their scam calls. Scammers are often capable of scrambling the number that will appear on the caller ID with “spoofing” technology that is designed to trick caller ID systems into displaying fake phone numbers. Even a supposed “local number” can lead to a dead spoof number.
In many instances, scammers who are calling from foreign countries can easily disguise their numbers, so that it shows up on caller IDs as a local number. According to the FCC, current spoofing technology makes it virtually impossible to prevent spoofing. As with most other scams, seniors seem to be primary targets of call spoofing scams.
3. Fear tactics
Fear tactic scams are usually marketed towards seniors. A fear tactic scam typically consists of a senior receiving a phone call with a recorded message, grimly stating the rates and statistics of senior injuries and deaths resulting from falls in the home. It prompts the senior to press ‘1’ for additional information. When the senior presses ‘1’, they will be immediately connected to a telemarketer who will wish to remain anonymous, but will request that the senior provide bank or credit card information to allow the company to collect monthly monitoring or subscription fees. This scam preys on the fear and anxiety of seniors regarding what may happen to them in an emergency situation if they fail to purchase a medical alert system.
4. Sweepstake scams
Seniors are often exploited and targeted by medical alert sweepstake scams. The companies behind this scam will send mailers informing seniors that they’ve won a free medical alert system and that the senior will only need to pay a small fee to claim the system. Seniors should be aware that legitimate sweepstakes will never require a winner to pay a fee, including paying shipping, taxes and processing fees, before the medical alert system will be released.
There is never a valid reason a senior should give their checking account or credit card number in response to a sweepstake winning. Furthermore, it is unlikely that a sweepstake would be mailed bulk rate. As an added precaution, seniors should check the postmark on the postcard or envelope. Additionally, if the senior does not remember entering the contest, odds are they didn’t enter.
Unfortunately, crimes against the senior community continue to rise each year. As scammers continue to find additional means of scamming the population, nearly half of the elderly population in America has been targeted by a fraud campaign of some sort. Of that number, more than a quarter have fallen victim to such efforts. If a senior receives an unsolicited call offering a free medical alert system, the senior should immediately hang up the call. More than likely, it is a scam. If a senior receives solicitations by mail, they should immediately discard them.
The consequences of falling prey to a scam can be severe. These scams may result in additional harassment, financial loss, and the risk of being viewed as an easy target by other scammers. By learning to identify scams, seniors can avoid the suffering that accompanies being a victim of fraud.