Mark Harvey — Don’t get scammed … just hang up

Anyone who peruses this little column with any degree of regularity has probably figured out by now that I don’t like bad guys. In fact, I don’t like them a LOT!

Inexplicably, however, the fact that I don’t like them seems to have little effect on their continuing to do bad things. (Clearly, they don’t know who I am!) Thus, we’re forced to protect ourselves from them. Here’s one of the latest and, seemingly, more resilient scams:

It’s a “robocall.” A resurrection of last year’s apparently successful scam of offering us a “free medical alert device.” What, exactly, is a “medical alert device?” Well, I’m not sure. I surmise that it might be a hybrid of a personal emergency response system (think, “panic button gizmo”) and some high-tech thingy that will alert somebody if something medically unfortunate happens to us, but I don’t think it really matters because none of us are ever going to get one!

At least, not from these people.

As noted, these are robocalls that offer said medical alert device and, perhaps, $3,000 in money-savings coupons! AND, some of these offers claim that they are being made on behalf of AARP!

Stop. First, yes: AARP does sometimes use robocalls for advocacy, heads-up for community events, member opinion polls, etc., but they do NOT ask for personal information, conduct financial transactions, promote contests or sell stuff. So, regardless of your views of AARP, these calls are NOT them.

Multitudes of call recipients report that many different phone numbers are displayed on caller ID (easy enough to do with the magic of technology), so that doesn’t help. These calls urge recipients to press “1” to get their free device by providing their address and credit card number (because you have to pay for a “monitoring fee,” right? I mean, how much good would a “medical alert device” do you if no one was prepared to be alerted?) or to press “5” to opt-out of future calls and “… alert your health care provider that you have refused the offer.”

REALLY? You’re going to snitch me off to my doc for not succumbing to your BS? No, NOT really.

If you press “1,” BINGO! You’re talking to a live operator, standing by to eagerly get your financial info! If you press “5,” a seemingly attractive option for many of us because we would like to opt-out of future calls, BINGO! The bad guys know that this is a working number that they can use in the future!

What do you do? Hang up. Screaming at them or raining-down curses upon their first-born children, while appealing and entertaining, is pointless because you’re talking to a machine, remember? That’s why it’s called a “robocall.”

Don’t press “1” or “5” or any other numbers — just hang up, and get on with your life. Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, give anybody ANY personal/financial information! Just hang up. You’re talking to a machine, remember? It’s OK to be rude to machines.

If you’re so inclined, you could report it as a “Do Not Call” violation by calling 1-888-382-1222 or going to If you want to contact your phone-service provider to block robocall numbers, have at it! But you probably don’t want to pay for it because caller ID-displayed numbers change every 20 seconds.

Yes, it is annoying, and, yes, it is sad. It’s sad that we’ve come to this. My personal approach is that I never buy anything over the phone unless I’ve initiated the call, but that’s my way. What’s important here is that we NEVER give out personal/financial info — over the phone or e-mail or any other way — unless we’re DARNED sure we know who we’re dealing with!

And as long as I’m going on about my view of things, I’ll throw in another: “Fast-talkers,” meaning anybody who’s selling anything in a HURRY! You’ve got to take advantage of this great offer/deal/sale RIGHT NOW! No, I don’t.

And the reason I don’t is because I’ve been hustled by better cons than you!

And that’s why it’s called a “HUSTLE.”

Now, after all of that, how ‘bout a little good news? Yeah? Try this:

How about a free caregiver support group for folks who are caring for someone with memory loss? And FINALLY, in Grays Harbor! The third Tuesday of every month, 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Aberdeen, 420 N. Broadway. This has been a LONG time coming.

Don’t be too quick to say, “Not me.” These are a great way to share and learn from others who are walking the same walk and to learn more about what you’re up against. They’re led by volunteers who have been trained by the Alzheimer’s Association Western &Central WA Chapter, so they know what they’re talking about.

Interested? You can contact the group facilitators: Rosie Dixon at (206) 459-8599, or Helen Morning Star at (360) 533-2277.

Think about it: Help only helps, if it helps — these will help.

Mark Harvey is the director of Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information &Assistance.


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