They say that there is no honor among thieves, and a new scam making the rounds perfectly demonstrates this. It involves con artists utilizing deception, threats and intimidation tactics to persuade elderly individuals to purchase medical alert systems that they neither have requested nor want, all in an effort to bilk them out of untold amounts of money.
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission, with the help of a U.S district court, was able to shut down one specific criminal operation called Instant Response Systems that was practicing this scam, but other similar operations are undoubtedly still active.
This particular scam is repugnant on several levels. For one thing, it deliberately targets a particularly vulnerable segment of our society, the elderly. For various reasons, this group often represents a fairly easy target for all types of con artists. For another thing, it is characterized by the use of extremely heavy-handed strong-arm tactics on the part of the perpetrators when they are inevitably confronted with the initial refusal of their offered services.
How It Works
The way that the scam works is fairly straightforward. To start, a representative from a company peddling a medical alert system will call an elderly consumer and begin their sales pitch, working to unload a bogus service similar to Life Alert. Typically, the consumer will respond with confusion and state that they never ordered or wanted the product being offered.
Here is where the caller will get nasty, threatening the targeted individual with all manner of litigation for money owed for a product that was, according to them, in fact ordered. The overwhelmed victim will then pay the caller and the call will end.
Sometimes, there will be a slight deviation from this script, with the scammer first actually mailing a bogus invoice and a medical alert pendant to a consumer without that person’s consent. Following shipment, they will then begin their telephone assault.
The FTC’s Response to Instant Response Systems
The FTC, acting on reports from consumers, took action against Instant Response Systems. In their complaint, the FTC made note of people who tried to dispute charges or who tried to contact the company to return their unsolicited merchandise. Consumers who were able to reach a representative for Instant Response Systems allegedly faced a litany of verbal abuse and demands to pay for the junk product.
Because of this alleged conduct, the FTC charged the firm and its principals with violating the Unordered Merchandise Statute by sending unordered products.
The defendants in this complaint went by several different names, including Instant Response Systems, LLC; Response Systems; B.B. Mercantile, Ltd.; and Medical Alert Services.
Unfortunately, Instant Response Systems’ scam and strong-arm tactics are hardly isolated. Should a consumer receive unsolicited material or phone calls from scammers similar to the aforementioned outfit, the FTC recommends reporting the activity to the agency. Consumers can log complaints on the FTC website or call 877-FTC-HELP.