New York area seniors, especially in the Hudson Valley, have reported receiving suspicious, prerecorded telemarketing calls selling a personal emergency alarm system. According to the recorded message, this system is necessary to protect against a long list of dangers, such as break-ins and medical emergencies. The recording claims that the system — worth several hundred dollars — can be installed for free, but will cost $30 a month thereafter. The consumer is prompted to press a button and speak to a live person for "verification." A telemarketer then asks for personal financial information such as a credit card or bank account number to complete the “sale.” However, victims report that callers refuse to provide even the most basic business information, such as the business address.
Exact details of the scam vary. The alarm business goes by a variety of names, including "Senior Emergency Care," "Senior Safety Alert," "American Senior Benefits Program," and "Senior Safe Alert." Typically, the calls appear to come from an area code in the surrounding region, but these numbers can be “spoofed” or misrepresented.
“In some cases, sales calls are pushy but legitimate,” said Claire Rosenzweig, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Metropolitan New York. “In others, the callers are crooks who impersonate real businesses and seek personal and financial information to rip off consumers and steal their identity. It’s important to be able to spot the signs that tell you a call is probably a scam.” Red flags of an alarm system telemarketing scam include:
• The caller or automated message tries to create an urgent sense of panic.
In this case, the call alarms seniors by describing a frightening situation where they are incapacitated at home and cannot call for help.
• Calls that push for immediate action.
High pressure sales tactics that are time sensitive (“This offer is for today only!”).
• Promises something for free... that really isn't.
Always be wary of "free" offers that ask you to pay a handling fee or other upfront charges.
• Implied endorsement from a well-known or sound-alike organization.
Some callers falsely claim that the alarm system is endorsed by the American Heart Association and the "American Diabetic Association," a name which sounds like the familiar charity, the "American Diabetes Association." Others claim a good BBB rating, so be sure to check the charity with BBB: just go to www.ny.give.org
and search for the charity by name.
• Refuses to provide valid contact information or complete offer details.
Any legitimate business should be able to provide you with detailed contact information, such as an address or website, as well as written details about the items and services being offered for sale. If you receive a telemarketing call like this:
• Hang up right away
• Do not provide or confirm any details about your identity or personal financial information
• Do not push any button(s) to proceed further
• Consider blocking the number and adding your number to the FTC’s “Do Not Call Registry”
• Report the call to your Better Business Bureau at www.newyork.bbb.org or to the FTC at www.donotcall.gov.
• Visit the FBI's website for more information about scams targeting seniors.
For more tips you can trust, visit www.newyork.bbb.org, and to sign up for our weekly scam alerts, visit https://cbbb.wufoo.com/forms/email-sign-up/.