The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 21, 2013

Scam Alert: Sharp Trevorton senior skirts $3G food bait

By Joanne Arbogast

The Daily Item

TREVORTON — Valley senior citizens last spring were being warned of a robocall phone scam in which medical-alert devices were being offered to them at no charge, or that a free alert system had been purchased for them. The end result was the same — at some point, they would be asked for personal information and a credit-card number.

That scam now has a new twist with fresh bait that John D., 72, of Trevorton, almost bit on.

“We get a lot of these kind of calls,” he said, “but I wasn’t sure if this one was a scam or not.”

The robocalls are coming from an organization calling itself the official-sounding National Senior Assistance program, and is not only offering a free medical-alert bracelet, but $3,000 in “food savings certificates” for those 60 years and older.

The Better Business Bureau ( reports the message goes something like this: “You now qualify under the new National Senior Assistance Program to receive $3,000 in free grocery savings certificates that can be used at hundreds of major grocery chains ... In addition, 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 other emergency...”

To receive this “risk-free offer,” all one has to do is press 1 to speak with a representative.

These type of calls or emails are called “phishing” —  an attempt to defraud someone of financial information by posing as a legitimate company.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, under the Telemarketing Sales Rule, “the vast majority of calls that deliver a prerecorded message trying to sell you something are illegal, unless you’ve given written permission for the caller to contact you. These robocalls are illegal even if your phone number is not registered on the National Do Not Call Registry.

“Most legitimate businesses adhere to the Telemarketing Sales Rule and do not place illegal robocalls,” the FTC reports. “Unfortunately, however, the prevalence of illegal robocalls has increased significantly in recent years due to technological advances that make it easier and cheaper to make large numbers of robocalls to consumers from anywhere in the world; and fake caller ID information in an attempt to obscure location and evade law enforcement.”

The FTC is working on multiple initiatives aimed at combating the problem of illegal robocalls.

There is no information available about a “new National Senior Assistance Program,” but there are plenty of reports from around the country of people receiving these calls.

The Better Business Bureau strongly urges you not to press any buttons but rather just hang up.

John D. hung up, but thought other seniors should be warned. The lure of free groceries, especially to those on limited budgets, can be very tempting.

“There are other people,” he said, “who are going to fall for this.”

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