If you got a phone call from someone who says he wants to send you a free medical alert device, would you think it was too good to be true? Well, you would be right. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued an alert about a telemarketing scam targeting senior citizens. The con, similar to scams that have been designed to commit Medicare fraud, involves getting personal information from seniors by offering them free medical alert devices. The U.S. District Court is working to halt the activities of the Orlando-based operation, but in the meantime, you need to know how to spot this and other scams in order to avoid becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud.
Know the Scam
Everyone is familiar with so-called “robocalls,” the auto-dialing technology that enables telemarketers to rapidly dial thousands of people every day. Some people use robocalls for more than just interrupting your dinner — they also try to convince you to give up critical personal information.
In these scams, seniors and other vulnerable groups receive robocalls that offer “free” medical alert devices or other medical products. The caller might say that the product has already been purchased on the would-be victim’s behalf by a friend or family member. However, in order to keep the device running, she claims that the senior will need to pay a monthly fee. Once the operation has your personal information, they can use it to commit fraud.
There are a few variations on this scam, some of which do not involve robocalls. In one of these versions, the caller claims to be a representative of the Medicare office. He might say that he needs to “verify” your personal information — such as your Medicare or Social Security numbers — or that he needs your bank account data to set up direct deposit. In either event, the ultimate goal is identity theft.
Don’t Be a Victim
You don’t have to become a victim of these scammers! The most important piece of advice for anyone receiving calls like this is to keep your personal information private. You should not give out your Social Security, Medicare, or credit card number to anyone over the phone.
The Medicare office will never call you to ask for your information. If you receive a call like this, hang up the phone and call the number found on the back of your Medicare card. This will put you in touch with the real Medicare office. You can then verify if there is anything they need from you or that they have for you. Furthermore, most government agencies communicate by mail — not over the phone.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to offer you a free medical alert device, try looking up her phone number online. Many sites offer “reverse phone number lookup” services. If the call is from someone looking to commit telemarketing fraud, there may already be comments online that will identify it as such.
Ultimately, remember that just because a caller sounds friendly or trustworthy does not mean he or she is. These callers are skilled in the art of getting people to trust them enough to give out money, and they know that a friendly voice on the line tends to be successful. Protect yourself by not disclosing personal information and screening your calls carefully.