Door County residents have been receiving official-looking envelopes with a post-paid card inside that promises to reveal to those who return the card the information to qualify for “a state-regulated life insurance program” that will provide up to $35,000 “for your final expenses.”
The envelope, with a rendering of what appears to be a government building, says “OFFICIAL BUSINESS” on the envelope and “DO NOT DISCARD” because inside there is “important information about your government benefit.”
While there is no government agency name on the envelope, there is a Tempe, Ariz., address that, when Googled, is listed to Corner Stone Publishing & Marketing. A telephone number associated with that business has been disconnected.
Inside the envelope is a yellow, post-paid card titled “2017 BENEFIT INFORMATION FOR WISCONSIN CITIZENS ONLY.”
The card states that “You may qualify for a state-regulated life insurance program to pay for your final expenses, regardless of your medical condition, even if you have been turned down in the past.
“It is important that you learn how to qualify for this benefit, which could pay for 100 percent of all funeral expenses up to $35,000. This benefit is tax-free for WISCONSIN residents.”
It then asks you to fill in your name, address, phone number, age, spouse’s age and spouse’s name and return the card within five days. In small italics at the bottom of the card is this statement: “Not affiliated with or endorsed by any government agency.”
The address the card goes to is identified as “Information Processing Center” in Rapid River, Mich.
The best place for this come-on is your recycling bin, according to Lisa Schiller, Director of Investigations and Media Relations for the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Wisconsin.
“I find this mailing to be vague and mysterious,” she said. “It does not include a company ‘name’ nor a phone number in which one can call for more information or questions. It does not include a real address, but a post office box.”
Schiller said this particular effort has not yet made the BBB ScamTracker (bbb.org/scamtracker/Wisconsin), but she did some investigation and discovered the Tempe office telephone disconnection.
“Because of its ambiguousness, lack of information through BBB.org or anywhere else including online searches, and information obtained about ‘free government benefits information,’ I would suggest that for now consumers not respond to the mailing,” Schiller said. “We do not know what would happen if one sent in for the supposed ‘free information.’ Would the consumer then be asked for more personal information? Would they be asked to pay money to cover materials or shipping and handling, for example? Who receives the information at PO Box 190 in Rapid River, Mich.? Who rents this PO Box?”
Schiller said she reached out to the BBB of Detroit, which handles the Rapid River area, and the BBB of Phoenix, which handles the Tempe area. “Neither have ever heard of nor seen this mailing before,” she said.
“Please keep in mind that consumers can obtain information and quotes for free from local area funeral homes,” Schiller said. “They may also be able to inquire through their personal financial planner. If one does not have a personal financial planner or does not know what funeral homes are in their area, our BBB Accredited Business Directory can help. Note that accredited businesses also provide free business quotes with a click of a button within their BBB report.”
She also pointed out a government website to learn about “free” government benefits in each state at benefits.gov/benefits/browse-by-state/state/191.
Schiller advised that consumers can report such mailings and suspected scams to the BBB office, toll-free at 800.273.1002, or through the website, bbb.org/wisconsin/.