TDCI Issues Consumer Alert Regarding “Free Meal” SeminarsAgency Urges Consumers To Be Skeptical, Do Research Before Making Decisions
NASHVILLE – Before accepting any invitations about financial, retirement or estate planning, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) reminds consumers that many insurance and financial firms contact middle-aged and older adults or host free meal seminars with the goal of selling insurance or financial products or services. The invitations, written or verbal, may clearly state that nothing will be sold and only advice will be offered. However, there’s a chance the consumer will be encouraged to buy something either during or after the event or meeting. To protect themselves, TDCI encourages consumers to follow these suggestions:
- Be skeptical about “free meal” seminars. The offer of free meals, door prizes, and/or free advice may lead you to attend a seminar when you wouldn’t otherwise. Some invitations make you feel it’s urgent to register due to “limited space.” A nice restaurant, an expensive meal, and a well-dressed presenter may be impressive, but it doesn’t mean that what they’re selling is right for you.
- There is always a purpose to a “free” seminar, even those advertised as unbiased and educational. You should know that if you put personal information on a registration form, that information likely will be used to market products or services to you.
- Do your homework before you attend a seminar or meet with an insurance or financial expert. Contact TDCI to verify that the person is licensed to sell the product. Ask if there have been complaints or enforcement actions against this person.
- Review credentials closely. Individuals selling insurance and financial products may advertise their credentials to gain the trust of clients. Some credentials suggest a certain expertise to provide insurance and financial advice that may or may not exist.
- Before you attend a free seminar or meet with an insurance or financial expert, find out how they earned their credentials. You can do this by conducting an online search or contacting TDCI.
- Does this product or service make sense for you? Always be sure you understand what’s being sold.
- Insurance and financial products can be complicated even for the most informed consumer. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, especially if you don’t understand something.
- It’s rare that one product or service will meet the financial needs and goals of everyone attending a seminar. Be cautious about any promises that one product can meet all of your financial needs. The product must be right for you, your lifestyle, your financial goals, and your tolerance for risk. If the presenter doesn’t know your personal financial situation, he/she can’t know if a product is right for you.
- Never make a final decision at a seminar. If you attend a seminar, you may be exposed to high pressure tactics, frightening stories about people who don’t have enough money to live on in retirement, and promises of unrealistic financial returns.
- Decide before you go that you won’t give out any personal information, sign any documents, or make any decisions while you’re there. Leave your checkbook at home and consider getting a second opinion.
- Report suspected scams to the TDCI Consumer Insurance Services Division. Anyone can find themselves the victim of a financial scam so don’t let fear, embarrassment, or uncertainty keep you from asking for help. Your report will help prevent others from becoming victims too.
TDCI Is Here to Help
TDCI may be able to help if you believe an insurance agent or company has misled you or sold you a product that isn’t right for you.
To file a complaint, please visit our website at https://www.tn.gov/commerce/insurance/consumer-resources/file-a-complaint.html or send a written complaint and any supporting documents to:
Consumer Insurance Services
500 James Robertson Parkway, 6th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243-0574
(800) 342-4029 or (615) 741-2218
Fax: (615) 532-7389