Agency warns elderly of emergency alert system scam

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Multiple agencies are warning of a new scam that targets the elderly.

Homes across the U.S. are getting automated calls that promise seniors a free medical alert system, though it's too good to be true.

The scam has put groups nationwide on alert, as they ask people to hang up the phone if they get one of these calls and immediately report it.

The scam involves a company claiming to be American Senior Benefits. The scam artists have called at least two people in the Jonesboro area.

The same robocall played for both people, promising a free medical alert system.

"That's the system where you push the button to call for help if you have an emergency in your home," said Walter Stewart, a case manager at the East Arkansas Area Agency on Aging (EAAAA).

Stewart says his agency was alerted to the scam last week.

One of the agency's own employees and another woman received robocalls about the alert system, reportedly endorsed by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Diabetes Association.

"The calls would say that the service could be provided if you were interested, press one," Stewart explained. "I'm assuming that that was when they got on the line, they would try to get some information from them or maybe ask to send in a donation."

Stewart says he alerted the Attorney General's office and notified the AHA, which confirmed that it was indeed a scam.

"We tried to be proactive as we could to get the word out there so that people don't respond to these calls," said Alexis Sims, the Arkansas communications director for the AHA, "but until they're able to track down that company that's doing that, we're just not able to stop it just yet."

Sims says the AHA does not support the product being promoted by these calls nor does the legitimate company called American Senior Benefits.

An AHA consumer alert also states, "AHA has not been able to trace the company in order to send a legal request that they stop using our name. The 'robocalls' are coming from a cell phone number and calls to that number are not being returned."

The AHA and the real American Senior Benefits have formally complained to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

They now urge anyone who receives these calls to also file a complaint with the FTC by calling 877-FTC-HELP.

In the meantime, Stewart asks seniors to contact their local agency on aging if interested in a valid emergency response system.

"They (the seniors) are getting more educated as time goes by and more aware of scams," Stewart added, "and they're just being a lot more cautious, thankfully."

The EAAAA can be reached at either 870-972-5980 or 1-800-467-3278.

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