Attorney General spokesman Geoff Greenwood says the mailing from a company known as “Need-A-Lead” caught their attention.
“That’s titled Government Benefit Supplement Policy. It looks like an official type of government mailing. Unfortunately for the company, they sent it to an investigator who works for our consumer protection division — he received it at home and brought it to the office and we opened a case,” Greenwood explains.
They alleged the way the letter presented the product was a violation of Iowa’s Consumer Fraud Act. “Regardless of the merits of the product — and in this case it’s selling death benefit insurance or funeral insurance — the product may be legitimate, but the way it’s being marketed is something we alleged is deceptive,” Greenwood says. He says the mailing could make someone take action in the mistaken belief it is a letter from the government.
“The front of the letter says 2017 benefit information for Iowan citizens only, second notice, time sensitive, and it just appears to have the look and feel of a government mailing,” according to Greenwood. “We don’t have a problem with legitimate marketing. What we have a problem with is when a company makes it look like it’s coming from the government when it’s not.” The mailing sought the recipient’s phone number and age, and spouse’s age to see if they would qualify for what it described as a “free service.” He says you look into such mailings before taking any action.
Greenwood says you should call if you have any questions about whether the letter comes from a particular agency and find out if they actually sent it. He says it’s likely they will tell you they didn’t send out the letter. Greenwood says they believe the issue has been settled.
He says they’ve reached what’s called an “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance” so the company will not longer market its services in this way. “We believe it’s a successful agreement in that the company is changing its marketing techniques.”
Greenwood says some 26,000 Iowans may have gotten the letter late last year. The agreement also required Need-A-Lead and its owner to pay $1,500 to support future consumer fraud enforcement efforts.