Worldwide Info Services, one of the Lifewatch’s telemarketing agencies, eventually settled charges filed by the FTC and the State of Florida by agreeing to stop making robocalls or engage in similar deceptive activities. That scammy operation was deemed fraudulent by the FTC and shut down in late 2014.
In this current case, the medical alert company Lifewatch is alleged to have perpetuated a similar scheme, but with different telemarketers. The complaint alleges that LifeWatch has illegally deceived senior consumers in the US and Canada, luring them into buying medical alert systems and paying monthly monitoring fees. The deception was accomplished by using misleading robocalls through telemarketing.
The FTC and the Attorney General’s Office claim that Lifewatch was not only aware of but was, in fact, responsible for the unlawful activities of Worldwide Info Services. They further allege that when Worldwide was forced to stop its operations, Lifewatch simply went on with its illegal telemarketing campaign using other telemarketers.
From the FTC press release:
“Some scammers won’t take a hint,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “When we sued Lifewatch’s telemarketers for making deceptive robocalls, they just continued the same illegal practices with new telemarketers. The FTC and the Florida Attorney General won’t be deterred, and will continue to work together to stop illegal robocalls.”
The joint complaint says the Lifewatch has bombarded consumers – predominantly elderly ones – with countless uninvited robocalls. These calls generally use numbers which are on the Do Not Call Registry. Using phony and unauthorized caller-ID data, the calls use pre-recorded messages to mislead consumers into believing that a medical alert system has been bought for them. The telemarketers who spoke with the elderly consumers refused to tell them who might have purchased the system for them.
The telemarketers ultimately acknowledge that monitoring fees will be charged on a monthly basis, although billing will start only when the system has been activated. Consumers are asked to give their bank account and credit card details and other similar information.
What To Do
Basically, these are unsolicited cold calls made by automated dialers to the elderly. No major reputable medical alert company is doing this. Even though this scheme may have ended or is on its way out, medical alert scams appear popular and could continue to perpetuate from other sources. So be careful.
If you or your parents are shopping for a medical alert system, make sure that you or your parents are the ones calling the company up and inquiring or purchasing. Never respond to a call that has a pre-corded message on medical alert systems, especially if the message says that you can receive a system “at no charge.” More tips here. You can research various companies on this website and their websites before you decide if you even want to call them up.
Consumers who bought in complained that they were charged practically immediately, and that they were liable for more than $400 of equipment fees unless they returned the system. Even then, they still owed the company for monthly monitoring fees of between $29.95 and $39.95.
The joint FTC and Florida AG complaint seeks preliminary injunction to disallow the defendants from using unlawful robocalls and from making false telemarketing claims. It also seeks monetary restitution for the victims.