(WOIO) - If you are frail, elderly, or have elderly parents, you've likely thought about getting one of those medical alert systems. They give you peace of mind. But with one company, they may also bring intimidation, along with a hefty bill.
"They got scared after a while and wanted to stop being contacted. They figured 'let me pay this,'" says U.S. Postal Inspector Michelle Purnavel.
And she said that is how thousands of elderly consumers felt after being intimidated into buying a device called the Instant Response System.
"They would contact potential consumers and try to sell them a medical alert device -- a pendant worn around the neck, which triggers a calling center which, in turn, calls police or family if the wearer happens to fall or get injured," Purnavel says.
The cost? Around $470.
According to Purnavel, "Some of these individuals did not choose to purchase the pendant, but ended up receiving it in the mail anyway."
Victims said telemarketers called every day and threatened them with legal action.
"The telemarketers would tell the unwilling consumer that recordings existed, which could prove they agreed to the contract and that they now owed anywhere from $300 to $500, depending on said contract," she said.
Inspectors say the elderly victims were often bullied into giving their bank information over the phone. They figured if they just paid what was asked, the harassment would stop.
These Instant Response System telemarketers have collected 2,000 victims and almost $2 million in losses.
"We all have parents. We all have elderly family members. It is terrible to see these people targeted and, rather than trying to put up with the harassment, they give in and end up sending money," says Purnavel.
These "telemarketers" often pressure you to buy their product right then and there. And they will often direct you to websites with other "satisfied customers."