Protect Your Personal Information from Marketers
Senior citizens often receive mail that asks for personal information in exchange for details about life insurance, funeral expense benefits, or supplemental Medicare benefits. Once seniors provide their information, they are sometimes flooded with mailed solicitations or hounded by sales calls.
The mailings will typically ask you to fill out a postage-paid card with your name and date of birth and promise to provide free information about the “benefits available to you.”
The organizations that send these mailings are not affiliated with the government. They sell your personal information to insurance companies that then use it to try to sell you life, burial, or supplemental Medicare insurance.
These companies—called “lead generators”—sometimes send mailings that look like they may be from government agencies. They feature headings like “New 2016 Government Benefit Update for Minnesota Citizens,” “IMPORTANT LETTER OF NOTIFICATION,” or “Medicare Open Enrollment Qualification Request Card.”
One mailing pressures seniors to return the card to see if they qualify for a “Final Expense Insurance Program” that may pay 100 percent of final expenses or as much as $25,000.
Another mailing asks seniors to provide their personal information to see if they qualify for a “NEW state- regulated” life insurance program that would pay up to $50,000. The mailing also claims that those who return the card may receive a no-cost dental, vision, and hearing discount plan.
Lead generators want you to hand over your personal information before you have time to think about it. The mailings usually try to create a sense of urgency and ask you to act quickly. One, for example, states that your request for information won’t be processed if submitted later than 15 days after you get the mailing.
You Should Know…
The Minnesota Department of Commerce regulates the insurance industry. When a mailing uses a phrase like “state-regulated,” it may be trying to appear official or seem like it is notifying you about a new government benefits program. In reality, all insurance companies are regulated by the state, so a “state-regulated” plan is nothing new or special.
What Can You Do?
Contact Local Folks First
If you think you need the benefits that these mailings mention, don’t send your personal information to someone you don’t know in order to get more information. Contact your local insurance agent or chat with a friend or family member about possible options.
Throw the Mailing Away
You don’t have to disclose your personal information to receive information about insurance options. Personal information is only necessary to get an insurance quote or to apply for coverage.
Check your Existing Insurance Coverage
Lead generators try to scare you into thinking that you may not have enough money to pay your final expenses or that Medicare won’t pay your medical bills. A lot of people already have life or supplemental Medicare insurance policies. You can review the coverage you already have through Medicare by calling (800) MEDICARE ((800) 633-4227) or visiting the Medicare website at www.mymedicare.gov.
Contact the Minnesota Senior LinkAge Line
The Senior LinkAge Line is run by the Minnesota Board on Aging. When you call the Senior LinkAge Line, a state employee who is trained on a host of issues affecting seniors can talk to you about insurance options and help you make a good decision.
Minnesota Senior LinkAge Line
Minnesota Board on Aging
P.O. Box 64976
St. Paul, Minnesota 55164-0976
TTY: (800) 627-3529
“Opt Out” of Mailing Lists
Lead generators can obtain your name and address through companies with which you do business. In some cases, you can let these companies know that you do not want your name to be sold or traded by checking a box to “opt out” of the sharing of your information with third parties. You can also opt out of mailings from many national companies for five years by contacting the Direct Marketing Association (“DMA”), a trade group of companies that solicit the public. To opt out of DMA’s mailing lists, you can visit the DMA website or mail your request along with a $1 processing fee.
Data & Marketing Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
“Opt Out” of Prescreened Offers
The three major credit bureaus sell lists of individuals who meet certain credit criteria to lead generators and others. You can opt out of receiving prescreened insurance offers by visiting www.optoutprescreen.com, or by calling the “Opt Out” hotline at (888) 5-OPT-OUT ((888) 567-8688). You can also send a written request to permanently opt out to each of the three major credit bureaus. Your request should include your home telephone number, name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth, and must be sent to the following addresses:
Experian Marketing Services
For more information about how to protect your personal information from insurance marketers, contact the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office as follows:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-3353 (Twin Cities Calling Area)
(800) 657-3787 (Outside the Twin Cities)
TTY: (651) 297-7206 or TTY: (800) 366-4812
Guarding Your Privacy
Identity theft is on the rise nationwide and is helped along by lenders and creditors who are willing to grant thousands of dollars in credit in mere minutes with little or no proof of identity. This booklet will help you guard your privacy, protect your personal information and avoid identity fraud.
Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that over eight million Americans become victims of identity theft each year, resulting in billions of dollars in losses. The problem has significantly increased over the last decade, with complaints about identity theft rising by more than 578% in the last ten years. Don't let this happen to you!
When in Doubt, Don't Give it Out
Scams and crooked deals are everywhere today, often where we least expect it. At every turn you can protect yourself by following one easy principle. If someone contacts you and claims to need your private information, think twice and remember: when in doubt, don't give it out.