Unfortunately elderly members of society seem to get victimized much more often than others and, when it comes to “phone scams” the numbers are startling. Recently the federal government stepped in to “pull the plug” on a nationwide telemarketing scheme that was using illegal “robo-calls” and targeting seniors in the United States and Canada.
The calls were tricking them into purchasing medical alert devices that they had actually never ordered, and signing up for monthly charges to their credit cards for “monitoring”. The phone message that folks were receiving was so well made and so convincing that it didn’t sound like a typical scam recording but legitimate instead.
In the Federal Trade Commission lawsuit it was noted that when seniors received these fraudulent robocalls they were told that a “free” alert system was ready to be shipped to them and had been purchased by another family member or friend of the family. It wasn’t just any system either, it was for the Life Alert system, one of the most popular and most famous systems around because of the long-standing television advertisement that so many people know so well. (“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”)
In fact, Life Alert has nothing at all to do with this scam and is suing as well to have these calls stopped and clear their name and reputation..
Since it began, 60,000 complaints have been received by the FTC about this one fraudulent telemarketing campaign in particular.
“These telemarketers used illegal robocalls to make a sales pitch that was 100 percent false,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in a statement. “Their M.O. was to take advantage of older people’s concerns about their health.”
Seniors who answer the calls, listened to the “pitch” and then pressed the number 1 on their phones were immediately connected to a “salesperson” who then (allegedly) continued the fraudulent call by providing even more for deceitful information about the device and the monthly monitoring charge that came with it.
Seniors, according to the FTC lawsuit, were informed that a monthly monitoring charge of $34.99 would be charged them only after the system was installed and then activated. In fact, as soon as they agreed to receive the system the charges started, whether the device had been activated or not.
It’s believed that $13 million in commissions was made by the companies that ran this fraudulent marketing campaign since it started in March 2012. Prosecutors on the case said that many of the seniors who responded to the fraudulent offer were suffering from dementia.
Florida Atty. Gen. Pam Bondi, working alongside the FTC on this case, has frozen the assets of the fraudulent companies and said that her office is going to do everything possible to compensate the thousands of people who were duped by them and lost money.
“We will not tolerate unscrupulous individuals targeting the elderly,” Bondi said.