Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona is issuing an alert, urging caution to seniors who may receive a telephone call from “AFD Medical Advisors”, selling a prescription drug discount plan or referencing “Medicare” and requesting a bank account number.
BBB is receiving roughly 60 inquiries each month from around the country, and has received fifteen complaints from thirteen states in a very short time period. All complaints are from children filing on behalf of an elderly parent.
Complainants report that their parent received an unsolicited phone call from AFD Medical Advisors, either advising of a problem with their Medicare program, or offering free medical prescriptions through a drug discount plan. In all cases, AFD Medical Advisors representatives requested a bank account number and withdrew $299.
The company has responded to most complaints, by making refunds. However, the company’s report is an “F”, the BBB’s lowest grade, based on the nature of (“serious”) complaints filed, information not supplied by the company and two unanswered Advertising Review requests by BBB.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, the company became incorporated in Wisconsin in June, 2012. Aaron F. Dupont (initials “AFD”) is listed as the registered agent of AFD Advisors, LLC.
“ BBB is very concerned when we believe seniors are being preyed upon. In this case, every complaint to our office has been filed on behalf of an elderly parent, some who live in assisted living facilities and most who no longer have complete control over their finances”, said Kim States, BBB president. “It’s extremely important to monitor transactions and advocate for elderly parents or relatives. Often times, they’re too embarrassed to come forward after giving bank account or other personal information over the phone to an unknown caller.”
On December 6, 2012 BBB requested AFD Medical Advisors address advertising claims made on its website. AFD Medical Advisors states it is “The leader in providing clients access to patient assistance programs created by pharmaceutical companies.” In addition, AFD Medical Advisors claims to be affiliated with more than 20 pharmacies. The Wisconsin BBB requested that AFD Medical Advisors substantiate its relationship with the advertised pharmacies, as well as substantiate its title of “leader.” The Wisconsin BBB also requested AFD Medical Advisors provide the names and contact information of at least five customers who have used the advertised program along with documentation on the discount program. The BBB did not receive a response.
In addition, on two occasions BBB sent business questionnaires, requesting basic information from AFD Medical Advisors, but has received no response.
BBB did contact and receive verification from two of the pharmacies previously listed on its website, stating they are not “participating pharmacies” nor affiliated with AFD Medical Advisors. The list was suddenly removed from AFD’s website the week of February 18, 2013.
Richard J. of Arizona filed a complaint on behalf of his elderly mother, saying an AFD representative talked her into providing her bank account number. “She had no recollection of talking to (the company) and if we hadn’t been taking care of her financial affairs, this would probably have gone unnoticed. I feel this is a terrible business practice that preys on vulnerable seniors.”
Vicki T. of Mississippi filed a complaint on behalf of her elderly mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. She writes, “The caller suggested she represented the U.S. government for a Medicare Drug program and requested (my mother’s) social security number and bank account information. The consumer was misled. This was a misrepresentation of a product.”
BBB offers these tips:
- Register your phone number with the National Do-Not-Call registry at (888) 382-1222 or visit www.donotcall.gov. Telemarketers who continue to call you after you have registered are subject to penalties.
- Never send money or give out personal information such as credit card or bank account numbers, date of birth, or Social Security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.
- Report suspicious callers to family members, assisted living facility managers, neighbors or friends.
- Check with BBB before dealing with any company or charity that you are not familiar with.
- Don’t yield to high-pressure or emotional sales tactics.
- Consider changing your telephone number to an unlisted number.
- Check on seniors often and discuss their activities with them.
- Review their bank statements, looking for unusual withdrawals or charges.
- Remember, you may simply hang up the phone when a stranger calls.