Monday, April 30, 2007

Scammers and Fools...

Here's a true story with no real moral, or hero, or resolution.
Now that I've piqued your interest, you may be wondering "But Prof, what would be the point of such a tale?"
Mostly, it's a word of caution, and an opportunity to vent about the complacency of certain gummint agencies.
A recent post on an insurance "bulletin board" to which I contribute piqued my interest:
"I live in NC and was recently offered an opportunity to sell Zero Premium Life Insurance. I was told that a group of investors buy and pay for all monthly premiums for a 50K Life Insurance policy. Upon the death of the policy holder, his/her policy will pay 15K to their beneficiary and 35K to the investor. The policy holder must be 65 - 85 years old. The seller of the insurance policy would receive $250 for each policy. This sounds to easy. Is this an Insurance RIP-OFF?"
I immediately caught an unpleasant whiff (as in "if it's too good to be true..."). My immediate reaction was that this must be some kind of internet hoax, a la "The Onion." So I Googled "zero premium life insurance," and found page after page touting this miraculous panacea. IB readers may recall that the product formerly known as "Stranger Owned Life Insurance" is no more; surely this can't be.
But apparently there is some carrier, somewhere, that's signing up agents to push this stinker. The North Carolina Department of Insurance has thus far refused to sign off on it, and I thought that perhaps my own state's DOI would be on top of the situation.
What was I thinking?!
And so, I called up the Ohio Department of Insurance, and was routed to the life department. I introduced myself, and told the gentleman at the other end of the line what I had learned, expressed my own suspicions, and asked what the DOI thought of this new gizmo.
"Matt" had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. This took me aback, and I waited for him to ask me to send him the particulars.
Good thing I wasn't holding my breath.
Eventually, I told him that this seemed like something in which the DOI should be interested. He suggested, huffily, that if I wished, I could email what information I had, and they would perhaps look into it. Okay, so to what email address should I send this? Oh, just go over to the DOI website, click on Consumer Services, and fill in the form. To which I replied, "wow, you guys sure sound interested in keeping consumers from being defrauded." There was a pause, and Matt replied "what?" So I repeated my statement, to which he replied (and I quote) "is that supposed to be sarcasm?" I responded "yes," and terminated the call.
As regards this post's title, I will leave it to IB readers to discern which entity is which.
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