News: 2009 Press Release
For Release: December 17, 2009
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Commissioner Poizner Announces License Suspension; $15,000 Fine for Company's Deceptive Practices Targeting Seniors
Elderly Should Be Vigilant to Avoid Scams, Commissioner Poizner Warns
On the heels of a $15,000 fine against Annuity Services Insurance Center for deceptive advertising practices targeting senior citizens in California, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner today asked seniors to continue to watch out for scam artists preying on the elderly.
"Misleading, deceptive, alarming and confusing, that's what many of these advertisements are to the elderly," Commissioner Poizner said. "Anytime we see a company operating in this manner we will make them stop and an effective way to do that is to issue a heavy fine."
Beginning in August 2004, Investor's Union, LLC, doing business as Annuity Service Insurance Center, sent out at least 235,000 unsolicited mailers to California residents. The notices stated that recipients, "…may have an annuity that has reached the end of its surrender period," and told them to contact the Annuity Service Insurance Center. Those who responded were asked questions about their investments and assets. Those who qualified were then scheduled to meet with salespeople for an annuity/life insurance sales pitch.
The notices failed to disclose that Investor's Union, LLC and the Annuity Service Insurance Center were not affiliated with the elderly recipient's insurance company.
CDI determined that the $15,000 fine was in line with fines levied by other states. The Department also forced the company to surrender its license to do business in California for five years.
Delaware and Wisconsin imposed $15,000 fines and Iowa issued a civil penalty of $21,000 for similar deceptive practices by Investors Union, LLC. Seven other states have issued cease and desist orders against the company.
Commissioner Poizner offers these tips to help protect senior citizens from annuity scams:
- Watch for high-pressure sales pitches. If a particular group or agent has contacted you repeatedly, offering a "limited-time" deal that makes you uncomfortable, trust your instincts and steer clear.
- Skilled scam artists will try to prey on your "time fears." They may try to convince you to change coverage quickly without giving you the opportunity to do adequate research.
- A licensed agent will be more than willing to show adequate credentials.
- Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
- If you suspect you've been a victim of deceptive sales practices call (800) 927-HELP (4357).
For more information, go online at www.insurance.ca.gov/0150-seniors.
Please visit the Department of Insurance Web site at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP. Callers from out of state, please dial 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.
If you are a member of the public wishing information, please visit our Consumer Services.