Surge in cold calls targeting older people about personal alarms, claims Which?

Mobile phones

Reports of older people being targeted by cold calls about personal alarms are on the rise, claims consumer group Which?

Which? received just five reports about personal alarms (medical pendants or wristbands used to alert emergency services at the push of a button) to its scam sharer tool in the whole of 2023. But that number jumped to 25 in the first five months of this year.

Some of the tactics reported mirror those of predatory cold callers flogging useless white goods and appliance repair cover. 

Here, we explain how these cold callers operate and tell you how to tackle them head on:  

Harassed by cold callers

Cold callers may already know your name, age and even details of your medical conditions. 

One tactic they use is to claim you’re eligible for a free alarm, asking for card details to cover the ongoing subscription costs or a one-off installation fee. 

They may say they’re a local health worker, as one Which? reader reported: ‘He said that as I had health conditions, they would give me a free alarm pendant in case I fell. He knew I was over 70 and when I asked where he had obtained my details he went silent. I asked if it was via the NHS or the doctor, and again he went silent. 

More often than not, Which? heard from family members who said their elderly relatives had been harassed or misled by callers claiming to be linked to a legitimate company that provides medical pendants, perhaps offering an ‘upgrade’ or claiming that a replacement device was needed ahead of phone lines switching to digital by 2025. One reader told Which?: ‘My 88-year-old father has an emergency alarm service from Careline and received a call from a company pretending to be them, telling him they needed to upgrade his device. They knew how much he was paying. 

‘They then asked for his bank details, but he became suspicious and hung up. I looked up the number and, sure enough, it came up as a scam. I told Careline and it’s aware this is happening.’

Two recent reports point the finger at a company trading as Doctor Alert, with a registered company name of Digitex Global Ltd. 

One relative told Which? that her mother, 94, received a call claiming that ‘as phone systems are going digital, she needed to sign up for Doctor Alert for a personal alarm which would work anywhere in the country’. She already has a medical alarm through Careline and assumed that this was who she was talking to, so handed over her card details.’

Which? contacted Doctor Alert multiple times using the contact details listed on its website, but didn’t receive a response.

Says Grace Forell, Which? Consumer Expert: 

“It’s really concerning that we’ve seen a spike in the number of older people being targeted by cold calls about personal alarms. “If you or someone you know has been cold-called about personal alarms, ask for the company name and report it to the ICO. If you are being inundated with cold calls, ask your phone network about the call-blocking services it offers.”


Speak to your telephone network to see what call-blocking solutions may be available to support you or vulnerable friends and family. 

You can also:

    1. Register landlines and mobile numbers with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) free of charge. Then report marketing firms that breach this. 

    2. Report nuisance calls, spam texts and breaches of the TPS to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) using its online reporting tool.

    3. Send the company a subject access request – via email is fine – asking it to supply you with copies of your data and proof that it had consent to contact you. It must reply within one month of receiving the request, and can be reported to the ICO if it doesn’t.

    4. Refer to Action Fraud (in England, Northern Ireland and Wales) and Police Scotland (in Scotland) if you or someone you know has been the victim of fraud. Wider concerns about a business’ practices can be referred to Trading Standards.

Chris Price
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