August 15, 2013

Emergency Medical Alert Scam

Dear Consumer Ed:

I have been receiving automated phone calls saying that I qualify for a free emergency medical alert system. To accept, I'm instructed to press 1; to decline, press 2. When I hit "1" to accept I was asked to provide my bank account information. I was afraid it might be a scam so I hung up. But now I keep getting these calls, even though I have declined the offer numerous times and even asked to be removed from the contact list. What can I do?

Consumer Ed Says:

You did the right thing in refusing to provide your bank account information. A scam like the one you describe has been reported to be occurring around the country. Callers impersonate a company offering a free emergency medical alert system, but they're really just scammers trying to get you to provide your credit card or bank account information so they can take your money.

You should report such calls to the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") by visiting or calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). You should also contact your phone company to request that calls from that number be blocked.

To avoid unwanted telemarketing calls, a lot of people choose to register their phone numbers with the National "Do Not Call" Registry. While this is a good idea, it will only keep your number out of the hands of legitimate telemarketers. Scammers tend not to honor that registry. However, being on the Do Not Call list can make it easier for you to spot a scam since you will know that any solicitation from a company that you do not have an existing business relationship with, and that is not a charitable or political organization, is not a reputable business.

Remember - free means you don't have to pay anything. So if someone calls and offers you something for free in exchange for your banking information, hang up the phone. 

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