Voice of the Consumer: Free offers can be anything but a bargain

Katie Pelton, KKTV. 

Whether it’s over the phone, through a text message, or an old fashion letter that comes in the mail, we have to be on the lookout for questionable offers no matter the delivery. A viewer named Robert reached out to me because he got a letter in the mail offering life insurance benefits. The mailer looks official, almost like a tax form. The title of the document reads, “2018 Benefit Information for Colorado Citizens Only.”

The paperwork says that you qualify for a state-regulated program and that the benefits will pay for your funeral expenses. It then has a form to fill out your name, age, address, phone number and other personal information. Thankfully, Robert spotted some of the red flags and didn’t fill out any information. Instead, he reached out to our 11 Call for Action team. One big sign is that the letter said it was his second notice, but he never got a first notice. It says there’s an important document inside. The envelope also said it’s time sensitive and needs to be returned within five days.

Like Robert told me, it “gives a false sense of urgency.” That’s exactly right. Mailers try to make it seem urgent so that we react right away. The best thing to do is to take your time to sort through the information and decide if it’s legitimate.

I reached out to the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado and they told me they have heard about similar offers before that are soliciting customers for burial insurance policies. The BBB says the information collected can sometimes be sold to insurance sales agents.

The mailer said you can get information for free if you are a Colorado resident. However, in fine print, the document said it is “not affiliated with or endorsed by any government agency.” Be cautious of any mailer offering free information or gifts. It is a tricky way to get you to share your personal information because you think you’re getting something free in return. I’m so glad Robert was able to spot some of the small details that made him hesitate.

According to the BBB, mailers are often a way to bypass the Do Not Call List. If you fill out information, sometimes the telemarketers can get approval to contact you. You can always check the company on the BBB’s website (www.bbbsc.org <http://www.bbbsc.org> ). Remember to verify the company before paying them money or giving them any sensitive information.

If you get something in the mail that looks suspicious, you can reach out to our 11 Call for Action team at 719-457-8211. If this sounds like something you could help with, we are always looking for volunteers to be part of the 11 Call for Action team.

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