According to consumers, they receive telephone calls with pre-recorded messages that claim a relative or friend recommended them for a free product. Recipients of the call are prompted to press a number to accept the offer. After accepting, another call is initiated to request personal information including credit card numbers.
The calls claim to be from various well-known medical alert service providers, but the providers contend the calls are not originating from them.
Better Business Bureau urges call recipients to end the call. Some consumers have reported accepting the free monitoring system only to find out later they have been billed for services. Several consumers report the phone number comes in as blocked, or that when they attempt to call the number back, they find that the number on their caller ID is not in service.
“Free offers are very enticing as they seem to carry no conditions or risk,” said Gary Almond, president of BBB Serving Northeast California. “Not so. Free offers often fail to disclose conditions and can lead to unauthorized charges.”
In California, calls made via automatic dialing-announcing devices
, or “robo-calls” are only legal when the recipient is already a member or client of the company or organization initiating the phone call, or if an emergency system is contacting you regarding an emergency situation. In other cases, these calls are acceptable if a live person announces the nature of the call, the contact information for the company represented and obtains consent from the person called to hear the prerecorded message.
Better Business Bureau offers the following suggestions when receiving unsolicited phone calls:
- Remember that pre-recorded calls in California are typically not lawful.
- Check the background of any company before doing business with them by searching at necal.bbb.org.
- Get the specifics. Free offers must follow guidelines of the Federal Trade Commission. The BBB Code of Advertising also provides guidelines for “free” offers including that all terms and conditions be disclosed.
- Take your time in making a decision. Do not fall for high-pressure sales. Watch for salespeople who claim an offer is only good today.
- Keep a record of the number on your caller ID, hang up and discuss the purchase with a friend or family member. Be wary of doing business with someone calling from a blocked number. Do not give credit card or Medicare numbers to callers you do not know.
- If you think the call is illegal, file a complaint with your telephone company and the FTC.
As a business-supported nonprofit organization, Better Business Bureau's mission is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBB sets standards for ethical business behavior, helps consumer identify reliable businesses through BBB Business Reviews, sets standards for truthful advertising, evaluates and provides reviews of charities, educates consumers, and offers dispute resolution services. In 2012, consumers relied on BBB 124 million times for Business Reviews, consumer tips and scam alerts. To learn more, please visit www.necal.bbb.org.