Sandra Reed’s Life Care Planning: Scam alert — Do not press ’1′! Do not press ’5′!

Attorney Sandra W. Reed answers your life planning questions.

Attorney Sandra W. Reed answers your

life planning questions.

“I was calling to schedule delivery of your medical alert system, a ‘fall and I can’t get up’ type of system you’ve seen on TV. Looks like this system has been recommended by thousands of hospitals and medical professionals. Let’s see. Says here the system has already been paid for. Looks like you’re getting this system because either yourself, a family member or someone you know has experienced a fall in the past.  So again, it’s already been paid for, so there’s no cost to you whatsoever….To schedule delivery of your emergency medical alert system, press ’1′….Press ’5′ to decline delivery of your system.”

This recorded message has appeared on my answering machine at least five times in the last few weeks. The first time I played it, I wondered if my deceased father-in-law had secretly ordered the alert device he had stubbornly refused to purchase despite our urgings. It quickly dawned on me that this was impossible, since it has been over a year since he died. My brain flashed on the word “scam.”

I wasn’t going to fall for that one. So I erased the message and forgot about until the next one. I was slightly annoyed, didn’t listen to the entire message and deleted it instantly. By the fifth call, I was losing patience over the intrusion and came within a finger’s touch time of pressing “5” to decline. Something – maybe my guardian angel – made me pull back.

Be Alert: Avoid Telephone Scams; Don’t Answer Robocalls

I didn’t realize what a good decision I had made not to respond at all until I read the article “Cause for Alarm” by Sid Kirchheimer in the AARP Bulletin (July-August 2013, Vol. 54, No. 6).  Kirchheimer warns that pressing “1” could mean opening the door to identity theft. He says most likely a telemarketer would have pitched the sale of monitoring services and other expenses for the “free” device. The scammer is not after a payment for these proposed services but the opportunity to steal credit card or bank account information.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) attorney Arturo DeCastro’s advice, well taken in today’s world, is strict. Hang up on all cold callers. It may seem discourteous, cruel even, to hang up on a person  just performing his or her job, but the risk of later intimidation calls to “pay or else” or of identity theft overrides the rudeness factor. Besides, many of these calls are robocalls with nothing but a recorder on the other end until you engage.

Kirchheimer, who authored Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling, advocates assuming that any unsolicited prerecorded sales call is the work of a scammer because all the calls themselves are illegal. He also warns against choosing an option to opt out of future calls because this alerts the caller that a working number has been reached.

My personal self-defense tool against telephone scam calls is caller ID. I ignore any calls labeled “Unknown Name/Unknown Number” and calls from area codes or cities from which I am not expecting a call. If I don’t recognize the number and/or caller, I let the call go to the answering machine. Nine times out of ten, no message is left. If there is a message, this allows me to screen the call, and if there’s a message like the one above, I delete it with sly pleasure at having outwitted another scammer.

Be Informed: Keep Up-to-Date on Latest Scams Making the Rounds

It makes sense to keep informed of the latest scams circulating. provides an online site called “Fraud and Scam Alerts” ( The site gives descriptions of how each scam works, how individuals can protect themselves from falling for the scam and what steps they can take if they have given out personal information.

In addition to monitoring bank and credit card account statements and credit reports, the Verizon alerts often advise contacting law enforcement authorities. Here are a few of the more clever — and more dangerous — examples:

Jury Duty Scam

The caller identifies himself or herself as a U.S. Court employee informing citizens they have been selected for jury duty. The caller then asks for the answering party’s name, Social Security number, as well as credit card numbers. If the individual taking the call refuses to give out the information, the caller threatens with fines and prosecution for failing to comply with jury duty.

Of course, Federal courts never require sensitive information to be provided by telephone and most prospective jurors are contacted through the mail. The call is an attempt to steal the identity of the person answering the phone. If approached by this particular scam, an individual should contact the local FBI office. It is a crime for persons to falsely represent themselves as a federal court official.

Refund Scam

The caller claims to be a representative of a company with whom the call recipient does business, such as a telephone, Internet service provider, electric company or entertainment satellite service provider. The caller states there has been an overpayment on the last bill. The caller needs some information, including a Social Security number to process a refund check. Clearly, this is another attempt at identify theft.

Know that almost all companies process refunds by automatically applying a credit to your bill with no necessity to make a phone call. Ask for a call back number and refuse to give out the information requested.

Overseas Money Transfer Scam

An email is sent by someone claiming to represent a foreign government or someone formerly involved with a foreign government. The person sending the email claims that, through changed leadership or death, he or she has come into a large sum of money, a major portion of which will be shared with you if you will help in getting the money out of the country. The email will request response by email with bank account and other sensitive information to help set up the transfer.

This one has been around for several years. I periodically see an email in which the trailer alerts me to this type request. I do not even open and read the email, but immediately hit “delete.”

Sandra W. Reed is an attorney with Katten & Benson, an Elder Law firm, whose principal office is located in Fort Worth. She lives and practices in Somervell County. If you have questions or concerns, please contact her by email at or by phone at 254-797-0211.




2 Responses to Sandra Reed’s Life Care Planning: Scam alert — Do not press ’1′! Do not press ’5′!

  1. Larry P. Smith Reply

    August 6, 2013 at 9:58 am


    Thank you for sharing your legal knowledge and perspective. I read your columns but, had not felt a need to comment.

    This, like your other columns,is good advice and should be heeded. My home phone (land line)receives those voice mails and they are enthusiastically deleted, On the cell phone, I simply hang up.

    We should not even listen past their opening.

    The computer or internet is different and I know that it is not a legal issue but, it can be costly.
    Not scam but, spam.
    Being a computer novice, I had to learn to not open emails from unknown or unfamiliar sources.
    Before that, my daughter and son-in-law had to come to my rescue twice. The 2nd time, I learned.

    Most are not as fortunate as I to have experts in the family so, if you don`t know it, don`t open it.

    Keep writing and advising. You are probably reaching more than you know.



    • Kathryn Reply

      August 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Larry. I’ll be sure to let Sandra know to read them.

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