Scam artists promise free or low cost medical alert systems

Scam artists promise free or low cost medical alert systems

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"They said they had orders to bring me a Life Alert system," Sue said. "They said they had orders to bring me a Life Alert system," Sue said.
Suzanne Howell was curious about the local number, so she went to her computer and pulled up the reverse phone directory. Suzanne Howell was curious about the local number, so she went to her computer and pulled up the reverse phone directory.
The number shows the call originated in Kingston, Tennessee, the location of the address is a vacant parking lot next to a church. The number shows the call originated in Kingston, Tennessee, the location of the address is a vacant parking lot next to a church.
"The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability has been warning about these calls," said Bill Schall, executive committee chair of the Knoxville-Knox County Council on Aging. "The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability has been warning about these calls," said Bill Schall, executive committee chair of the Knoxville-Knox County Council on Aging.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Tennessee officials are warning seniors to beware of scam phone calls promising them free or low cost medical alert systems.

Con artists know how to manipulate people by "pushing" their buttons to produce the automatic response they want.

One way of doing that is offering something either for free or at a very low price.

Seniors and persons with disabilities across East Tennessee have been receiving automated phone calls telling them they are eligible for a free personal emergency alert system, or that it is available at little cost.

Suzanne Howell and her mother, Sue, enjoy sharing time together. Suzanne was at her mother's home the other day when a call from a local number came through.

"They said they had orders to bring me a Life Alert system," Sue said.

Sue asked that we not use her last name.

The familiar commercial for the medical alert system is targeted to seniors. Various emergency warning system have different brand names.

"I was here when the call came in and I answered her phone," Suzanne said.

Sue says she generally screens her calls, but because the unfamiliar number was local she listened to the message about the alert system.

"They didn't say, 'This is so and so.' They didn't give their name or anything, and I had not ordered anything," she said.

"I think it was a scam." Suzanne said. "I think it likely had nothing to do with the actual Life Alert we see on TV commercials and stuff."

Sue says she didn't give the caller much time to get through his script before she hung up.

Suzanne was curious about the local number, however, so she went to her computer and pulled up the reverse phone directory.

The number shows the call originated in Kingston, Tennessee, the location of the address is a vacant parking lot next to a church.

"The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability has been warning about these calls," said Bill Schall, executive committee chair of the Knoxville-Knox County Council on Aging.

Schall says seniors like Sue are often targeted by con artists who try to make their fraudulent deal sound affordable to seniors.

"When they are offered something free it seems to be attractive to them," Schall said. "What they should remember is if anyone is calling and wants personal information, bank information, you should just hang up on them."

If you are wondering how the call appeared to come from an empty lot in Kingston, here's how the con artist did it. A telephone device can be plugged into overseas phones to make them appear to be using U.S. area codes.

"They would probably have tried to talk me into giving my address or Social Security numbers and I know better than to do that," Sue said.

Here are some tips to follow to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Do not follow any prompts from the caller, even if it is to remove your number from their list.
  • Never share personal information with anyone you don't know.
  • If you have a medical alert system and are unsure about a call, contact your provider.

"I just hung up and I think everyone else should too to all these calls that they're getting," Sue said.

Schall agrees. Just hang up.

The calls are recordings until the listener is instructed to press a button to speak to a customer service representative for verification purposes. That's when they ask for credit card and personal information.

Investigators say many of the calls originate from overseas, so catching the con artists is difficult and prosecuting them is next to impossible.


You can see Don Dare's 6 On Your Side reports every Monday and Wednesday on 6 News at 5:00.

If you have a consumer question, send Don an email at ddare@wate.com or call his 6 On Your Side Hotline at (865) 633-5974.

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