Consumer advocates warn of free-funeral pitch in mail

By Mark Williams

Columbus Dispatch


The official-looking document that has been arriving in the mailboxes of many Ohioans recently says you might qualify for a state-regulated, tax-free program that will pay all of your funeral expenses up to $35,000.

All you need to do is sign the document and provide your age and your spouse’s age and a telephone number, then mail it to get information about the state-regulated program, the card promises. Your name and address already are on the light-green document, which is about the size of a post card.

While the card says the information is free, consumer advocates warn that people should think twice about returning the card.

Joan Coughlin, spokeswoman for the Central Ohio Better Business Bureau, called the wording on the card deceptive.

“Anytime you are solicited for these types of offers and they seem too good to be true, they are,’’ she said.

The bureau traced the origins of the card to Lead Connection, a Texas company that generates sales leads for other companies. The post card has an Oklahoma return address.

In this case, the returned cards are given to an insurance agent. They’re used to contact the consumer, who then is pitched insurance policies to cover funeral-related costs, Coughlin said.

Lead Connections said it had been hired by an insurance agent to mail the cards. It would not disclose the agent’s name.

A year ago, Michigan insurance regulators ordered one such operation to stop soliciting business there until the company obtained a license.

The Ohio attorney general’s office said it has received no complaints about the mailing.

Coughlin and attorney general spokesman Dan Terney warn consumers about turning information about yourself or your finances over to companies that are asking for your business.

“Research any company before agreeing to any transaction or providing any personal information,’’ he said.

Coughlin said it is important for consumers to determine the source of the solicitation and to ask why a company wants to talk to them about funeral expenses.

“You may be the target demographic for the products they sell,’’ she said.

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