This would sound too good to be true if someone called and said that their caregiver and or children called a company and then offered them a free medical alert system.
But that is the problem: there is no such thing as a free medical alert system in the United States.
According to the Better Business Bureau, there was a a letter sent out to senior citizens in June of 2013 that warned of a company calling to say that they were offering a free medical alert system to them because their family members gave them permission.
The “company” that would call them was known as the following:
- Medical Emergency
- Medical Alert Company
- First Alert Company
- Life Alert U.S.A.
- Medical Alert Hewlett
According to the BBB website, when the telemarketers would call and get elderly people to fall for the scam in order to get their bank account information, they would send the system, but when they would open the package and realize that it was not what they that it was, there was no way to get it sent back. Or if there was a way to get it sent back, they would give out bad addresses and the company was charging a $35.00 fee every month from the person’s bank account without the person knowing that it was being charged. Because of the volume of calls the BBB was getting, they did file a lawsuit again Life Watch U.S.A. as well as Connect America for impersonating Life Alert.
To further with this, there was an article that appeared in USA Today that was published that same month and year that looked into the issue further. In that article, a lot of elderly, diabetic, and disabled Americans were targeted and the callers went as far to say that they were with Medicare.
So what should you do to protect yourself?
According to the BBB, here is a list to know whether it is legitimate or not:
- “Free offers”
Someone calls to offer something for free, of course it will be enticing to accept. Do not do it. Always ask for details, such contract details about how much a month this service will cost, and who ordered it. After that, call the family member or caregiver to verify that they actually called this particular company and that they gave permission for them to contact that person. If they say they did not, then just keep hanging up on the caller. Find out whether or not there is additional charges and fees such as shipping and handling for something like this device.
- Scare tactics
It is scary for someone that lives on their own or is disabled and knows that at any time they could be calling for help because they fell or worse yet, not be discovered for days until a loved one comes by to actually check in on them. But do not fall for the scare tactics and threats of if the person does not order the service then consequences will follow such as large bills or that that they will have to pay for a machine.
- Calls for immediate action
Everyone loves a great deal, that is no secret. But do not fall for the “the offer is good today only!” line. An offer that sounds too good to be true probably is.
- Implied endorsements or affiliation with legitimate entities
If the company says on the phone “I’m with Life Alert”, for example in this case, then ask for that person’s name and contact information. Then call Life Alert, ask to talk to a representative, and then ask if that particular person works for that company. If they say no, then let Life Alert know that someone called pretending to be someone from their company and attempted to gather personal information from you. More than likely, Life Alert will take down all the information that you have given them and put it on file to let their supervisor know of later on. Most companies are good about taking customer concerns about someone impersonating an employee and forewarning people not to talk to that person or anyone attempting to be from their company. If someone comes goes that house (some companies will do that as well) and says they are from that company, demand to see a badge or identification. If they cannot provide identification or a badge, call the particular company they say they are with, find out if they sent someone to your home, and if not, call the local police department and let them know that someone is attempting to get access to you that does not have the right to.
- Refusing to answer questions directly, provide contact information, or complete offer details
This is a big one. When someone calls, always ask questions. In this case, quite a few of the people that were contacted asked the question “who ordered this for me?” and either got hung up on, or was told that they could not be told who (this was from both the BBB website as well as USA Today article). Always ask the question of whom you can talk to about this device and that you want all the details about this “alleged” offer in writing. Do not under any circumstances provide information, especially bank account information and or a social security number. More often than not, the person that is calling will hang up because it is not a legitimate company that is calling. Also always ask for the address, phone number that the person can be reach at, and always demand to know who ordered it and why.
Bottom line: there is no such thing as “free medical alert system” in the United States. Most of the credible and reliable medical alert systems in the United States charge a small fee in order to have this service to benefit the consumer. If someone calls offering a free deal, double and triple check to make sure that it really is free and if they are a legitimate employee for that particular company.