If it looks like a scam, feels like a scam and groups like the State Commissioner of Insurance and the Better Business Bureau call it a crime, then you need to be aware of it.
The latest scam is a letter that targets seniors and could wind up in anyone's mailbox.
When Leslie, who asked to not have her last name used, first saw the letter in her mail, she knew not to trust it.
"The information that was on there was rather spotty and it occurred to me that they were asking me for personal information, but they weren't giving me any of theirs. So I didn't know how to contact them. It just didn't look like it was the real deal," she said.
The letter stated it had important 2013 death benefit information enclosed and looks official, as though the government issued it. It asked for her full name, date of birth and phone number and wanted the same information for a spouse. It required that she send it to a National Reply Center at a P.O. Box in Indiana. It promises to send the person a free memorial guide book, while also checking if they qualify for a life insurance plan that would pay 100 percent of their funeral expenses up to $20,000.
"I know that's a worry on elderly people's minds," Leslie said. "They would send it in."
It turns out Leslie's gut reaction was right. The Better Business Bureau gave the National Reply Center a grade of an F. Several states have cease and desist orders against the company, including Kansas. It turns out the company sending out the letter will sell the person's personal information to insurance companies who will then hound them by calling and even showing up at their house to try and sell them insurance.
"What occurs is an insurance agency or an insurance company hires a third party vendor who sends out mailers similar to this to a certain jurisdiction," said Jennifer R. Sourk, director of the consumer assistance division for the Kansas Insurance Department. "A consumer will just fill this out and not expect an agent to show up some afternoon and know their spouse's name and other personal information about them."
Sourk explained that the letter itself isn't a scam, but the packaging doesn't comply with Kansas marketing and advertising laws.
"They have to identify that it's life insurance. They have to identify which life insurance company policy it is related to, who may be contacting you," she said.
Also, a mailed letter can't look like a government document. Last November, the Kansas Commissioner of Insurance ordered National Reply Center to stop sending the mail and pay a $6,000 fine.
The mail hasn't stopped and the money never came. Until it does, Leslie will be following some advice.
"If you didn't know who it's from or you didn't solicit it and it looks too good to be true, it probably is," she said.
The next step is to get the attorney general involved. If someone doesn't want to be solicited, they should either tear up the letters or report them to the Kansas Insurance Department.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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