Seniors Warned of Medical Alert Scams

Phone scams targeting the elderly are on the rise, warns the Better Business Bureau. Telemarketers call offering seniors a free medical alert system that was never ordered. The phone calls are a scam intended to get the senior’s personal information and credit card number.

The robocalls claim to represent the well known “Life Alert” medical alert system (they of the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”), and state that a system has been ordered for them and will be sent to them at no charge. The consumer is directed to press a number to speak to a live salesperson who will then request credit or bank account numbers. Life Alert has issued a fraud alert informing consumers that they never employ telemarketers or perform cold calls.

We’ve written about senior scams before, primarily the ever-popular summer Grandparent Scams and holiday scams. Seniors are especially susceptible to frauds because the scammers count on the elderly to be especially fearful, trusting and sympathetic.

The BBB offers these tips when dealing with unsolicited calls:

  • Never provide personal information to an unknown caller.
  • Never respond to a robocall from an unknown company.
  • Don’t press a key to talk to a human. Simply hang up.

In addition, the Better Business Bureau advises seniors and other consumers to look for the following “red flags”:

“Free” Offers – Be wary of “free” offers that require you to pay a handling charge or other fees. In the case of medical alert systems, ask if there are additional monthly charges. If the telemarketer says a friend or family member bought the unit, ask for the name of the person and verify with them before agreeing to anything.

Scare Tactics – Being trapped in your own home with no way to call for help can be a scary situation for anyone, but for many seniors, it can be a realistic scenario.  Don’t fall for scare tactics.

Calls for Immediate Action – Listen for language like “this offer is good for today only!”

Implied Endorsement or Affiliation with Legitimate Entities – If a seller claims its product has been endorsed by another reputable organization, check directly with that organization for verification.

Refuses to Answer Questions Directly, Provide Contact Info, or Complete Offer Details –  Tell the caller you will not provide any information or make any decisions until you get all details in writing.

If you or someone you love has fallen victim to this or any other scam, report it to your bank or credit card company, file a report with the Better Business Bureau and submit a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Also, share any information with the Caregiverlist caregiver community here in the comments.

Senior Care Fraud and How to Prevent It

Caregivers for seniors must possess many skills, including keeping an eye out for new senior fraud schemes.  Last week, criminal charges were filed against four men who operated a fraud scheme in Pennsylvania that stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from seniors in need of caregiving.  The men created a false homecare agency and sold hundreds of home care contracts – which were never fulfilled – to unsuspecting seniors. 

While the conspirators were eventually apprehended and charged, an occurrence such as this recalls the necessity of ensuring the quality and reputability of a homecare agency.  Caregiverlist’s Standards of Quality lists the criteria that should be continuously upheld by a senior care agency if it is a professional establishment. 

The following is a list of the basic standards for a quality care agency:

  • Business license and necessary state licensure (if required by the state where the agency is located)
  • Caregivers are "Employees" this means the Agency is responsible for paying all employee payroll taxes, as required by law:  Unemployment Insurance tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax and State and Federal with-holdings)
  • Worker's Compensation Insurance
  • Professional Liability Insurance
  • Fidelity Bond Insurance (this is sometimes referred to as "theft" insurance)
  • Active Management of the Caregiver through a direct Supervisor or Manager
  • Plan of Care
  • Criminal Background Check performed on all Employees
  • Training for Caregivers
  • 24-Hour On-Call Service
  • Satisfactory Survey Results

The majority of the seniors who were targeted were those who lived alone and away from any family members who could have possibly prevented the fraud.  The lack of familial support that was common among the victims is a reminder that, ideally, others should be involved in the process of seeking home care services.  The fraud additionally reinforces Caregiverlist’s suggestion that those seeking care should speak to at least three home care agencies before making their decision.  It is important to compare senior care options.  Caregiving is an extremely personal service, and family should be involved in the process to ensure a comfortable fit between the senior and the caregiver.   

The fraudsters further offered their “services” at impossibly low rates – around $2 per hour.  It is vital to be educated about the realistic costs of home care , which is typically $15-$25 per hour. 

Seniors without adequate family support and assistance are particularly vulnerable to fraud.  Vigilance and involvement from others helps protect these seniors in the process of reaching out for care services.  For more information, Caregiverlist’s Senior Care Fraud Alert page has information on how to report suspected fraud.

Posted by:  Angela Manhart, Caregiverlist Blogger


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