State warns seniors of phone scam

The state Insurance Department is warning elderly Kansans to watch out for a potential scam seeking to gather personal information from seniors with annuities.

In a consumer alert issued Monday, the commissioner's anti-fraud division reported getting complaints from Kansas seniors about someone who called them from out of state trying to glean information about their finances.

The calls are worrisome because it could indicate someone is trying to sell unlicensed and worthless insurance to the elderly, or "phishing" for personal information that could be used to steal from victims' existing annuity accounts, said Bob Hanson, an aide to Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger.

"It could be a straight fraud situation or possibly an identity theft situation," Hanson said.

The fact that the calls are originating from out of state is a red flag, because all companies legitimately doing business in Kansas are required to be licensed here, Hanson said.

Initial complaints have come from northeast Kansas, but the department issued the alert statewide because it's possible the calls are being made to other areas but haven't yet been reported by consumers, he said.

In the consumer alert, Praeger urged Kansans to "follow the Stop, Call, Confirm method" to evaluate insurance solicitations. "Stop the call until you find out more by calling our department's consumer Consumer Assistance Division hotline to confirm the information you received over the phone." The department hotline number is 800-432-2484.

Hanson said consumers should avoid giving any information about themselves on an initial phone contact and get the name of the person calling, the company they say they represent and a return call number, which will make it easier for the commissioner's office to investigate.