Taking Care of Elderly Patients? Watch for Medical Alert Scams

October 7, 2013
Be wary of phone calls asking for personal information.

Be wary of phone calls asking for personal information. (Image courtesy imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Senior citizens and those taking care of elderly individuals need to be aware of a new scam that is targeting older Americans. Attorney general offices and consumer protections agencies across the country have recently issues bulletins warning of a new scam that promises a free medical alert device in exchange for personal information.

The way the scam works is this: a senior or someone taking care of an elderly patient is contacted over the phone. The person on the other end of the line says that he or she is a representative from a medical device company that has a great service that would benefit anyone of advanced age or poor health. This person then offers, free of charge, some form of medical alert device, emphasizing that this device could be potentially lifesaving and that anyone would be foolish to dismiss the offer. The catch, of course, is that the person needs just a little bit of personal information in order to process the order. Exactly what the information is can vary, but it often includes a bank account number, credit card number, Social Security information, or health insurance details. Whatever such individuals ask for, the end result is the same: they now have information that they can use to steal a target’s identity and money.

What to do

The New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection emphasizes that “legitimate companies selling medical alert equipment will never request your personal information in an unsolicited phone call.” So, if you are a senior citizen of are taking care of elderly patients and receive an unsolicited call, you may do the following:

  • Hang up! You are under no obligation to speak to people who ask for your personal information, and the more quickly you get off the phone, the better.
  • Get the caller’s information first. Find out who is calling: ask for a name, the name of the company, and an address and phone number; however, don’t assume that the caller is legitimate just because you receive information. Remember, it could all be false.
  • If you think the call might be from a legitimate company, and if you are genuinely interested in hearing more, end the call and do a little research. If you can, find a phone number for the company and see whether it matches the one you have from the caller. Then call the company and ask for verification that the person who called you is indeed a legitimate representative.
  • Under no circumstances should you give out any personal information until you are sure that the offer is real and not from a scammer.

Unscrupulous individuals prey on the unsuspecting. The more aware you are and the more prepared you are for calls such as these, the safer you will be.

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Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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