Government Goes After Company Scamming Seniors, Again

Photo (cc) by Brooke Hoyer

Persistence may pay off for Florida and federal officials trying to stop a company using “blatantly illegal” robocalls to trick seniors into paying up to $40 a month for supposedly free medical alert systems.

The Federal Trade Commission has filed a joint complaint with the Florida Attorney General’s Office charging New York-based Lifewatch with unsafe and deceptive trade practices. The filing comes a year after one of Lifewatch’s telemarketing firms, Worldwide Info Services, was banned from making robocalls or engaging in other deceptive conduct. Officials say Lifewatch continued its deceptive sales campaign through other telemarketers after Worldwide was shut down.

“Some scammers won’t take a hint,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“This company violated the Do Not Call Registry to deceive seniors, not only in Florida but across the country, and we will continue to work with the FTC to do everything in our power to make sure the individuals responsible for this scheme pay,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Nat Wood, FTC associate director, described Lifewatch’s “trifecta of misrepresentations”:

Your alert system has “already been paid for” by a friend or family member. Not true.

The system is endorsed by major organizations like the American Heart Association or AARP. Nuh-uh.

You won’t be charged anything until you activate the device, and you can cancel the service at any time without further payment. Not so much. Actually, Lifewatch charged people as soon as it got their account information. Then, it refused to let people cancel until the company got back the equipment or a $400 penalty.

The agencies are seeking a preliminary injunction from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, to stop Lifewatch and obtain money for restitution to victims.

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