COLUMBUS — Ohio Department of Insurance Director Jillian Froment is cautioning Ohioans – especially middle-aged and older adults – to be skeptical of insurance and financial products and services seminars that entice people to attend by offering a free meal. Even though pitched as only being informational, attendees can find themselves being encouraged – and even pressured – to make a purchase during or after the event.
“Be skeptical about “free meal” seminars,” Froment said. “The offer of free meals, door prizes, and/or free advice may lead you to attend a seminar when you would not otherwise. Some invitations make you feel it is urgent to register due to ‘limited space.’ A nice restaurant, an expensive meal, and a well-dressed presenter may be impressive, but it does not mean that what they are selling is right for you.”
Froment shared these consumer protection tips:
- Be skeptical. Federal regulators examined firms that offered “free lunch” seminars and found that every seminar was a sales presentation. You’ll likely receive products and services solicitations if you put your contact information on a registration form.
- Do your homework. Before meeting with an insurance or financial expert, contact the Ohio Department of Insurance to verify that the person is licensed to sell the product. Ask if the person has complaints or enforcement actions on their record.
- Review credentials. Some professional credentials suggest certain expertise to provide insurance and financial advice that may or may not exist. An expert who is “certified” or “accredited” or someone claiming retirement planning or senior issues expertise sounds qualified to help you, but may or may not be. Research their credentials online or contact the Ohio Department of Insurance.
- Does the product or service meet your needs? Insurance and financial products can be complicated so ask questions. It’s rare that one product or service meets the needs of everyone attending a seminar. If the presenter doesn’t know your personal financial situation, the person can’t know if a product suits you.
- Never make a final decision at a seminar. You may be exposed to high-pressure tactics, frightening stories about people low on funds in retirement, and promises of unrealistic financial returns at a seminar. Don’t provide your personal information, sign documents, or make final decisions. Leave your checkbook at home. Always get a second opinion.
The “free meal” seminar solicitations are typically made by telephone, mail or as an advertisement.
If you suspect a scam or believe an insurance agent or company has misled you, report it to the Ohio Department of Insurance at 1-800-686-1527 or www.insurance.ohio.gov. Consumers with questions about insurance or an agent or company can call the department at 1-800-686-1526.