The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

January 17, 2014

Shut down medical alert calls

I wrote in my last column, the single most common complaint I received in 2013 involved this free medical alert system recorded call (robo-call). The recorded call told the listener someone ordered a free medical alert system for them. If you wanted to accept this and followed the recorded instruction, you got transferred to a live telemarketer.

The telemarketer represented the device as endorsed by organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and the National Institute of Aging. The telemarketers wanted a credit card number to pay the monthly monitoring fee, and falsely promised not to charge the card until the consumer activated the device. Instead, they immediately charged the card.

The Federal Trade Commission started investigating complaints on this very topic in July 2013. Their investigation, which used, among other things, complaints made to the Do Not Call Registry, identified the culprits as an Orlando, Fla.-based company, Worldwide Info Services, doing business as The Credit Voice.

On Jan. 7, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Florida Attorney General obtained a temporary court order from a federal judge in Florida, barring Worldwide Info Services and 12 other defendants from operating this business, freezing the assets of the business and appointed a temporary receiver over the business. The authorities are seeking a permanent order against this business. The FTC reported this company made $13 million pitching this scam.

I expect we will hear more of this investigation. If you want to read more details of the FTC complaint, you can access it online at www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2014/01/ftc-florida-attorney-general-sue-halt-operation-used-robocalls. If you subscribed to any of these medical alert devices, please contact me and we will discuss it.

This investigation highlights a feature of the Do Not Call Registry which seems under-used by consumers. Many folks know they list their phone numbers with the registry, preventing most telemarketing calls. In fact, Iowa ranks 12th in the nation in percentage of residents registered, with 78 percent of residents taking advantage of the registry.

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