Salisbury woman warns others about medical alert scam

Elaine Goodman knows all too well what it’s like being taken advantage of for large amounts of money. The Salisbury resident was determined not to be duped by what N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper called a medical alert system scam.

The Consumer Protection Division of the N.C. Department of Justice has received more than 100 phone calls in the last month from people reporting the con.

The victim receives robocalls, which state officials say are pre-recorded, automatically dialed calls. The calls use an avatar recording, meaning the recording can understand some of what a person says and the response is a stock answer, explained Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the department of justice.

In the recording, “John” promises the victim a medical alert system at no cost, except for shipping.

“We suspect it’s either a ruse to steal your money or to bill your health insurance provider for a device you may not want or need,” Talley said. 

Goodman believes she received one of those robocalls about the medical alert system scam.

She credits hearing broadcasts about a similar scam in the Charlotte area for not falling for this one. But more than anything, it took being fooled once to make Goodman cautious of being tricked again.

She said she was taken advantage of in a makeup scam earlier. When she signed up for samples from the company, she gave them her debit card information and the company repeatedly withdrew money from her account. Goodman thought the initial debit would be the only transaction. “I fell for it,” Goodman said.

She described the recent two phone calls she received, both of which occurred on Monday, as brief.

“What they tell you is, ‘Hi Ms. Goodman, you have won a free life alert,’ ” she said. “They give you a number and if you are interested, then they say ‘all we need is shipping.’ ”

Goodman said the payment options are credit cards or a debit card, which she did not provide.

The first call was not recorded, but came from a person who spoke with Goodman. The second time the call was automated, she said.

“When I tried to call the number there was nothing. I called both telemarketers back and one said the mailbox was full,” Goodman said.

The caller tried to gain account information from Goodman, but was unsuccessful. She quickly told the caller she was not interested.

“I said, ‘I’m well aware of what y’all are doing and I bid you a good day,’ and I hung up,” she said.

When Goodman received the two phone calls Monday, she called Rufty-Holmes Senior Center where she said older adults who receive services from the agency should be warned about the scam.

“I know a lot of elderly folks who would say, ‘I’m getting one for free.’ This is just another scam. I wanted seniors to be aware,” she said.

Goodman spoke with Susan Davis, head of the information and assistance program, at Rufty-Holmes about the scam. Davis said the center placed flyers throughout the facility that details the scam.

“Anytime you can stop a scam is a victory,” Davis said.

She, like Goodman, believe many scams are targeted at older adults. The downside, Davis said, is there will likely be another scam in the future.

She believes the scam may have just started in Rowan County. She contacted an investigator with the Consumer Protection Division who said the agency was aware of the scam and were investigating.

Some local law enforcement say they’ve not received any calls from Rowan County residents about the scam.

Lt. Chad Moose with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said the agency is not currently investigating such a scam, but he does encourage residents to contact local law enforcement if they believe they’ve been scammed.

Capt. Shelia Lingle with the Salisbury Police Department cautions residents against giving out personal information.

“Don’t give out your pertinent information over the telephone. If it sounds funny or fishy, ask questions to verify because if they are a legitimate business they will tell you information about the company and they will be more forthcoming,” she said.

Lingle said anyone who is wary of a potential scam could also check the company with the Better Business Bureau. She also cautioned people to contact local law enforcement if they think they’ve been taken advantage of.

Talley said there is no way to pinpoint whether any of the 100 plus calls regarding the scam came from Rowan County residents. Many of the callers report the scam to the Consumer Protection Division, but provided few details.

“Some people say they get repeated ‘harassing’ calls,” she said.

Oftentimes the robocalls don’t entirely disconnect and the call is still active. Consumers who have reported the calls to the attorney general’s office complained that they receive calls over and over, with some saying the repeated calls border on harassment.  The calls tend to target seniors, and appear on caller ID as coming from 336-859-6217 or 919-659-5636, she said.

The numbers don’t usually connect if the victim tries to return the call. Goodman said when she tried to call the number she did not get a reply.

In North Carolina, it is illegal to make robocalls,Talley said. She encourages residents to hang up the phone and report the call to the state attorney general’s office.

“The more information we can get about the calls, the better chance of us finding out where they are coming from,” she said.

Anyone who believes they’ve been a victim of a scam is encouraged to call local law enforcement or the Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-566-7226 (1-877-5NO-SCAM).

Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: Facebook:

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