News 4 investigates 'Life Alert' scheme targeting St. Louis’ elderly

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by Chris Nagus / News 4 | @ChrisNagusKMOV

KMOV.com

Posted on February 25, 2014 at 10:48 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 25 at 11:05 PM

  (KMOV) -- It’s a sales pitch that sounds legit, but don’t be fooled. From a nondescript office building in Florida telemarketers spent the day breaking the law, even if they didn’t know it.

The rip-off started with a guy named “John.”

Dozens of people from St. Louis got a call from “John from the shipping department.” But “John” is actually a sophisticated-sounding robocall selling a medical alert device, similar to the one made famous in TV commercials.

On the phone, “John” made all kinds of claims, and lies and asked you to press “1”.

But that sent you to a real salesperson.

One of those salespeople decided to blow the whistle to the Federal Trade Commission about the business. He agreed to speak to us and admitted that people were getting billed even when they were told the devices had already been paid for.

Todd Kossow of the FTC said his agency received 67,000 complaints about the robocalls.

“Our evidence thus far shows that over the last couple years they took in over $13 million in commissions” said Kossow.

The FTC sued ten different companies operated by three different guys who all live in Florida.

One of them was Joe Settecase, but when News 4’s Chris Nagus showed up to ask him questions, he discovered an abandoned home in foreclosure.

At a home listed for one of the other owners, Michael Hilgar, someone looked out the window when we started knocking, but quickly ducked back behind the blinds. And the last man listed, Gary Martin, lived in gated Orlando community.

According to the FTC, all of these men made their living tricking seniors, people with dementia and memory problems.

Bottom line: Don’t press “1” or any other option offered by a robocall. Sometimes they will say press “2” to decline the offer.

Don’t do that either, it lets the robocaller know there’s a real person on the other end of the line opening you up to more calls.

Just hang up.

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