St. Louis, Mo., July 10, 2013 – The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is alerting St. Louis area consumers to mailers from National Reply Center, which claim to offer free information on Social Security changes and benefits.
The BBB says the mailers, which use a post office box in Bridgeton, Mo., are attempts to generate sales leads for an insurance company and have no affiliation with any government agency.
National Reply Center, based in Indianapolis, has an “F” rating with the BBB, the lowest possible, for failing to respond to complaints.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, called the mailings the latest in a series of marketing efforts designed to bypass state and federal do-not-call lists.
“Understand that if you answer the questions on this card and return it, you almost surely will be contacted by a business hoping to send a representative to your home to sell you insurance," Corey said. “If you don’t want or don’t need additional insurance, do not return this mailer.”
The BBB recently received copies of National Reply Center mailers sent to consumers in Florissant and St. Ann, Mo. Both are headed: “New Social Security Changes and Benefits,” and offer “free information on Social Security changes and benefits.” They ask that the recipients answer a series of questions that includes the name of the recipient and spouse, the dates of birth for both persons, a phone number and an email address. The mailings ask that the questionnaire be returned to National Reply Center via a postage paid postcard.
The BBB says that National Reply Center sells the information to an insurance agency which, in turn, uses information from the return mailings to contact the consumers.
The mailers offer a free Walmart gift card but don’t mention of the value of the card.
In October, the Kansas Commissioner of Insurance ordered National Reply Center to stop mailing insurance solicitations to residents of that state, calling the solicitations “deceptive and misleading.” Two years earlier, the Utah Insurance Department levied a $2,000 fine against an insurance agency that had used National Reply Center to solicit business. Utah officials claimed that the agency had violated state regulations by failing to disclose required identifying information. In 2006, Wisconsin’s Commissioner of Insurance ordered National Reply Center to stop direct mail materials to Medicare beneficiaries in that state, claiming the materials were not in compliance with the law.
Small print at the bottom of the recent Missouri mailers notes that: “This information is not affiliated with or endorsed by government agencies. You may be contacted by an insurance licensed representative.”
The mailers do not include the name of an insurance agent or agency, and the BBB could not determine which business is contracting with National Reply Center for the leads.
In November 2011, the BBB warned consumers about similar mailings from National Reply Center on behalf of Haberstroh Insurance Agency of Bridgeton. Those mailings – sent to thousands of seniors in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas and Indiana – offered information on Medicare benefits and asked recipients to fill out a brief questionnaire similar to the one required in the most recent mailing.
At the time of the 2011 BBB warning, Haberstroh officials agreed that its name would appear on future mailings. In response to BBB questions, Rick Haberstroh said his company has no involvement with the recent mailings.
The BBB offers the following tips for consumers receiving mailings on life or health insurance or related benefits:
- 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.
- Check out a BBB Business Review by calling 314-645-3300 or by going to www.bbb.org.
Contacts (News Media Only): Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-0606, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743, email@example.com, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org