(The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Roanoke, VA reported the following information about a new scam that is targeting seniors across the nation, including in Vermont.)
A new series of scam calls that offer seniors $3,000 in "food savings certificates" along with a free medical alert bracelet may be attempting to lure seniors into giving away personal information.
In the original scam, seniors received robo-calls from scammers posing as representatives of a medical alert monitoring company. They were informed a medical alert system had been purchased for them by an unknown party, and requested banking and other personal information to register.
Now in a new twist, the calls are offering seniors $3,000 in “food savings certificates” along with a free medical alert bracelet. The robo-call says the following message:
“For those sixty years old or older. You now qualify under the new National Senior Assistance Program to receive three thousand dollars in free groceries savings certificates. They can be used at over a hundred major grocery chains across the US. In addition to your three thousand dollars in savings certificate you'll receive a free emergency medical alert bracelet or necklace. This medical alert device is designed to save your life if you ever experience a fall or any other emergencies.”
What to Do
The recorded message then requests that the receiver press 1 or 5 to accept or deny the free offer, in the very same fashion as the original medical alert phishing scam. It is not apparent at this time what personal information this updated version requests, but as the National Senior Assistance Program does not appear to be a real organization, consumers are advised to hang up the phone.
“The similarities to the original medical alert phishing scam are striking and demand caution,” said Julie Wheeler, President and C.E.O. of BBB Serving Western VA. “Never, ever, give out your personal information over the phone to an unknown party. Just hang-up the phone.”
It is not clear at this time from where the calls are originating, but consumers in several states have reported receiving the suspicious offers. BBB’s in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Texas have all reported the calls in their respective service areas. [Several Vermonters have reported receiving these calls as well.]
Tips to Help You Avoid Being Scammed
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of a phishing scam:
- Be wary of anyone offering you something for “free” in exchange for your personal information. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Do not provide your bank account information, Medicare number, Social Security number or any other personal information to unknown individuals over the phone.
- Check out the company's BBB Business Review at http://www.bbb.org to see its BBB rating, complaint history and more.
A consumer alert from the Virginia Attorney General offers the following tips:
- Automated recorded calls from companies are illegal if you have not given a company written permission to call you-even if you have not signed up for the national Do Not Call Registry. To add your number to the registry, you can call 888-382-1222 from the phone you wish to register or visit DoNotCall.gov.
- If you are on the National Do Not Call Registry and have no prior existing business relationship with the company, these telemarketing calls also violate the law. You can file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission at FTCComplaintAssistant.gov.