By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller
Ellen Kitson ripped the post card in half and tossed it in the garbage.
“It read: ‘Scheduling Department’ … and that was all I needed,” said the 74 year-old Boise resident. “The fact it was for an annuity was tip off enough.”
The post card, sent out to thousands of individuals in Idaho from Medina, Ohio, says the surrender period is a positive event that means an owner may cash in an annuity or make withdrawals with incurring surrender charges.
“I don’t even have an annuity,” she says.
BBB checked with the Idaho Department of Insurance to notify them of the postcards, and see who was operating the generation lead campaign.
Spokesman Tim Roberts said anyone receiving the card should be careful not to give out personal and financial information. He adds that while this is a lead-generation program, the Annuity Service “is not the insurance agency coming to your home, so be aware.”
“While there is nothing illegal in generating leads or contacts in this manner, the wording should be clear to the recipient,” he says.
The post card was possibly issued from Investors Union which “has developed a pattern of complaints concerning advertising issues” and has no rating. BBB’s mail to this company has been returned as undeliverable. If you have an unresolved dispute with this company you may wish to seek legal advice.
It says that it wasn’t until August that the company revised its mailings to include a disclosure stating that consumers should disregard the cards if they don’t have annuities.
Investigation into Annuities Service showed several encounters with the department of insurance in Missouri and Ohio in 2007 for deceptive wording in its sales pitches. However, the mailings, some of which were postcards, stated: “This notice is to inform you that you may have an annuity that has reached the end of its surrender period,” and asked recipients to call to discuss their options.
Annuity Service Center, located at 4015 Medina Road, Medina, Ohio, also had operated under Investors Union LLC and Securities America. BBB serving Northeast Ohio, reports that the company was no longer operating and that the post card was very much in the same style as those sent out by Annuity Service Center in 2007.
The company schedules interviews for those who are interested. An annuity is a financial/life insurance package that after a specified time period it provides a monthly check to supplement the senior’s income.
Every year, the company sends out millions of mailings nationally to determine if annuity holders – those who have an investment from which they receive a fixed payment for a specified number of years – “or likely annuity holders” are interested in sitting down with an agent to review those annuities free of charge, according to BBB.
A 2005 reports out of California shows a mass mailing has hit thousands of seniors with the promise of an annuity review.
Kitson tossed the postcard without a response.