Public Safety
3:30 am
Mon June 10, 2013

Scam Targets Elderly With Health Concerns

Senior citizens are being targeted in the latest over-the-phone scam.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office has issued a warning to seniors after a recent spike in “robocalls.”

These robocalls are designed to obtain credit card and other personal information from unknowing victims by claiming to sell medical equipment like life monitors for $35 a month. In recent calls, companies identified themselves as “Senior Medical Alert” or “Senior Medical Advisors.”

The Attorney General’s office says the calls use scare tactics to trick seniors into responding quickly without thinking. The recorded voice tells the seniors they have been approved for medical alert equipment at “no charge.” The recorded voice also warns seniors of an increase in deaths and life-threatening injuries due to delayed responses from medical professionals after a fire, burglary or a simple fall.

James Donahue, the executive deputy Attorney General for the Public Protection Division, said it can be difficult to tell the difference between a legitimate solicitation and a robocall.

“They may be both from businesses that are selling you a product that does exist or they may be from scammers who are just trying to get you to turn over some personal information that they can use to either get into your credit card or bank account or to engage in identity theft or something like that,” Donahue said.

Donahue said the state does not know how these scammers are obtaining the phone numbers of Pennsylvania seniors.

With Allegheny County having one of the oldest populations in the country, Pittsburgh area residents are at a heightened risk for robocall solicitation, according to Donahue.

Donahue said everyone’s first line of defense against these attacks is to just hang up.

“If you woke up this morning and you didn’t think you needed a medical bracelet or some of these other devices and your medical professional hasn’t mentioned this is an important thing for you to get and if you get one of these calls, just hang up. You probably don’t need this,” Donahue said.

Donahue also advises anyone who receives a robocall to write down the incoming phone number and report it to the Attorney General to ensure that these robocallers conform to the “Do Not Call” law.

If you have experienced a robocall attack, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at (800) 441-2555.

Senior citizens can also keep these tips in mind:

  • Never give out personal information over the telephone or online.
  • Never give out billing information over the phone if you receive an unsolicited telephone call from a stranger.
  • Never let fear or emotion overcome your common sense. If you get a call or online appeal for money from a friend or relative, slow down and verify everything.
  • Never give out sensitive information to anyone on the phone unless you initiated the call to a company you know to be legitimate.