BBB: Responding to mailings sent to seniors

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(KTVI) - Seniors in Missouri and Illinois should be cautious about responding to mailings offering free information on changes in Medicare, Social Security or other government benefits. Chris Thetford, from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), explains this warning to Elliot Weiler.

In many cases, the mailings are designed to generate leads for insurance sales representatives, BBB says.

In recent days, BBB has received inquiries from St. Louis area consumers about two separate mailings – one from a direct marketing company in the Dallas area and another from a mailing center in Georgia. The Dallas mailing, to 4,000 area residents, offers a free copy of a booklet entitled “New Government Changes and Benefits for Seniors,” and was sent on behalf of an insurance business in Jefferson County, Mo. The Georgia mailing, received by a consumer in Wood River, Ill., offers, “A Guide to Health Insurance for People with Medicare.” That mailing does not disclose the business paying for the solicitation.

In both cases, the mailings ask recipients to respond with personal information to receive the brochures. The requested information includes their names and birth dates, their spouses’ names and birthdates and phone numbers.

Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, says that both mailings have the capacity to mislead consumers.

“In one instance, the mailer does note that the recipient may be contacted by an identified insurance representative. However, that information is in small print at the bottom of the postcard,” Corey said. “In the other case, there is no disclosure showing who will end up with your information.”

BBB has issued warnings on similar mailings in the past. BBB has said that seniors who respond to the mailings and return contact information, are waiving their rights not to be contacted under no-call laws.

BBB offers the following tips for consumers:

  • Be wary of any mailer offering free publications, information or gifts. These often are inducements to get you to provide personal contact information.
  • Never respond to any mailing, and never provide personal information to anyone unless you know specifically who is requesting it and why.
  • If you respond to a mailing, you may be giving a telemarketer permission to contact you.
  • Before responding to a mailing, check out a company’s BBB Business Review by calling 314-645-3300 or by going to www.bbb.org.