New scam targets the elderly

Published 7:37 pm Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Scammers are again playing on the elderly’s fears, this time with robocalls offering free medical alert devices. But the devices are anything but free: saying yes to the offer will likely lead to identity theft.

The automated call often starts with an offer for the device and instructions to press 1 in order to accept. At that point a live operator comes on the line and demands credit card or bank information. It’s a mistake to give it, according to law enforcement.

Other calls begin with a live operator claiming that their victims’ doctor had ordered the device for them and even go so far to make legal threats in order to get payment information. But the solicitors are by no means on the side of the law.

According to Maj. Kenneth Watson, spokesman for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, the agency has had reports locally of similar scams. But when deputies followed up, contacting the number provided to the victim by the caller, the person who answered promptly ended the call when the deputy asked for a website address to learn more about the company, Watson said.

From AARP, the recommended advice for those receiving unsolicited offers by phone is to hang up — don’t even wait around for sales information.

While many of these scammers claim their product is “free,” beware “cold calls” that use the mention of Medicaid, Medicare or major insurance companies as selling points. Most insurers don’t pay for the equipment at all, but if they do, it’s always with a doctor’s recommendation, which patients will already know about.

“We would like to remind the public to never give out personal information over the phone unless you are dealing with a business you are familiar with and know to be legitimate,” Watson said.

“Scammers target the elderly to prey on their savings and trusting nature,” he said.