3 On Your Side: Senior Medical Alert Scam

jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – You’ve probably seen the commercials. They advertise popular medical alert buttons that help keep seniors safe and living in their own homes. But scam artists claiming to be associated with these legitimate products are trying to take advantage of the elderly.

This scam has been around for a while but 3 On Your Side has seen an increase in calls and emails about it recently. Things are certainly heating up, and the targets of this scam are senior citizens.

Medical alert devices certainly can save lives, but when Betty and Raymond Klopfle got a call saying a medical alert system had been purchased for them as a gift there was a catch. They were told they needed a credit card number to activate it and that’s not all.

“He says ‘What is your birthday?’ And I say ‘7/5.’ He says, ‘See, you’re in the early stages of Alzheimer’s’ and I says ‘What the freak are you talking about in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.'” says Betty Klopfle.

“They will look for whatever it is you’re afraid of and they’ll zoom right in, try to turn it and try to create fear in you,” says Claire Rosenzweig of the Better Business Bureau.

The goal of the scam is to scare seniors into handing over money as well as personal information, including social security and bank account numbers.

While the Klopfle’s hung up on the initial call, the phone kept ringing, and the people on the other end were getting more and more insistent.

“The most important thing is if someone calls you out of the blue and asks for your personal information, hang up,” says Nur-ul-Haq with the Federal Trade Commission.

In March the Federal Trade Commission took action against a New York City company for allegedly coercing elderly consumers into paying up to $1,600 a month for a medical alert service. The company has been temporarily shut down, but authorities warn there are countless others using similar tactics.

For more information, visit: www.ftc.gov/opa.

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