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Medical Alerts -- seller and comparison sites mislead

The medical alert industry chugs on…and websites mislead.  [Rant on] Fear-based medical alert marketing enjoys robust web traffic, an enhancement to its senior-centric TV advertising. Searchers with an at-risk family member or who saw an older woman at the bottom of a TV staircase can find a plethora of matches. That particular you-know-who staircase vendor was founded in 1987 and salvaged a slogan from a defunct originator, adding the word 'help' in its next trademarked life. But by now, shouldn’t this market have been transformed by technology or undergone a business model change that would mandate a new name?  Well, it truly was transformed by a technology – SEO. Go ahead, Google the term. The not-so-medical alert is an SEO marvel, injecting old content with fresh dates. As you scan the list, note multi-device review sites that appear to be pay-to-play, whether they are or not.

Same stuff, different day. The 40-year-old device term that is still searched is 'medical alert.' Seriously, why medical? It may have made sense in the context of a 911 call for an ambulance. Instead, over time sellers added monthly fee-based screening call center responders ("Mrs. Smith, Are you okay?") for inbound contacts – many of them non-emergency loneliness calls. Or the calls are sent to pre-determined family responders, or the system is configured with calls to the front desk of an assisted or independent living community.  And voilà! A market opportunity emerged for the no-monthly-fee medical alert [aka 'medical alarm'].

SEO and scaring seniors and their families – that’s Internet showbiz. Fear lasts until death or the inability to pay an average $25-35 monthly charge. As you scan that Googled list, note multi-device review sites (.com and .org) that appear to be pay-to-play. But how would you know? Rules of engagement are not well-disclosed by any of the aggregators – how did product A or B wind up on that site? Maybe those companies or their marketing proxies placed banner ads to crisp up the search results with more visual 'content.' Or how about this twist –search for NCOA and medical alert. The National Council on Aging’s Benefits check-up is used as SEO content for, uh, you know who.

Who will shed light on comparison sites? So far, nobody. Last year, the Senate Aging Committee warned about Medical Alert scams preying on seniors -- and AARP warned about telephone-calling medical alert scammers that used its name. Neither tackled the multi-device review site topic. AARP’s last how-to on medical alerts was in 2010, offering user guidelines for choosing. Note how one seller leveraged it -- putting  an AARP logo and a link to the 2010 guidelines – as though their offering was an AARP recommendation. And subscriber-revenue Consumer Reports assessed a sliver of the market in 2013, more recently merely updating prices from last year’s update even though other device types and entrants may have emerged since then. As one comparison site notes in the small print at the bottom of the page: "Advertisements on this site are placed and controlled by an outside advertising network. [This site] does not evaluate or endorse the products and services advertised." Really, how would the web searcher know? And a paid partnership? According to one industry insider, that allows the vendor to respond to a (presumably negative) review. Well, now, that’s clear.  [Rant off]

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They also send post cards to seniors stating that a product costs only 39.99 but you have to call a phone

number to buy the product. I did this for my parents and gave them a credit card number before I figured out

the 39.99 was just a set up fee and even though the post card stated ONLY 39.99 there was also a $45

dollar monthly charge. The people who answer the phone did a hard sell.

That's not happening -- since the comments all require approval.  Those that are 'deemed same stuff, different day' -- will be deleted. And that means, you, Joe. 





Hi, Laurie--

You don't have to approve this one, either. Just wanted to let you know I wasn't trying to scam anything. I'm a faithful reader of your blog and a subscriber. The form has a link to a "Homepage," so I put one in. If that's the "link" you're talking about, then the form is confusing. If the rule is no URLs in the body, that's a different issue.

Either way, I appreciate the attention you're bringing to the issue of scammy medical alert sites. 



Given the topic, as you can see, I was just a skeptical.

I was wondering what your views are on life alert and other systems people may use to miseald and draw seniors in 


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