August 2, 2013

Editorial: Scam targets senior citizens


---- — You have heard it many times: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But it is human nature to be excited about about a “free offer.”

That’s why people continue to get ripped off by scammers. And often it is the older members of our society who are targeted.

The New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection is warning people about a new offer of free medical-alert devices that is actually a plot to get personal information from senior citizens.

The agency describes it this way: “Individuals posing as representatives for medical-device companies have been calling senior citizens asking for money and personal information, such as Social Security numbers or credit-card information, in return for ‘free’ medical-alert equipment.

“Seniors may also be coerced into believing that their health and well-being is at serious risk without the use of this equipment.”

The Division of Consumer Protection has received dozens of complaints about these type of calls — enough that they issued a public warning.

The agency emphasizes that people should never give out personal information, noting: “Legitimate companies selling medical-alert equipment will never request your personal information in an unsolicited phone call.”

Consumer Protection offers these following tips:

▶ If you receive an unsolicited call from anyone asking for your personal information, hang up your phone.

▶ If you take the call, identify who is calling and what company they represent. Make sure to get an address and a phone number for the business.

▶ Only give out personal information if you initiate a call to a company you know to be reputable.

▶ If you think you are interested in an offer made by a telemarketer, hang up and call the company back to verify that the call is legitimate. In addition, do some light research through Internet posts or by asking relatives and friends.

▶ Avoid unwanted sales calls. Place your personal phone number on the Do Not Call Registry by calling 1 (888) 382-1222 or logging onto And make sure to file a complaint at the same website and phone number if you are registered and still receive telemarketing calls.

Nefarious people are always cooking up new ways to separate innocent citizens from their money. It’s hard to keep up with all the scams out there, and it is especially challenging for vulnerable people like senior citizens, who may be less suspicious of a friendly voice on the other end of the line.

If you have relatives, neighbors or friends who might be susceptible to this kind of subterfuge, sit down and talk with them about the dangers of giving out private information.

Tell them the safest route is a simple one: If anyone calls you and asks for Social Security or credit-card information, just hang up.