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Senior citizens, caretakers beware of company offering 'free' personal alarm system

July 19, 2013

The Washington County Commission on Aging Inc. is warning senior citizens and caretakers to be wary of telephone calls or voicemails from a company offering a “free” personal alarm system.

A company using a variety of different names claims to be offering a free medical-alert system, the commission said in a news release.

The telemarketer tells the listener that the system will be provided to him or her, because a family member or a friend believes they should have it, and that the system and shipping have already been covered.

In many cases, seniors who provided their bank account or credit card information to “verify their identity” found they were charged the monthly service fee, usually around $35, then the system either never arrived, or they had trouble returning it and obtaining a refund, the agency said in the release.

In addition, the commission warned consumers not to provide sensitive personal or financial information to cold-calling companies and listed some 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 such as “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 information or complete offer details — Tell the caller you will not provide any information or make any decisions until you get all details in writing.

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