CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- 848. That is the number of pieces of junk mail the average American household receives each year according to New York University law school. The Iowa Attorney General’s office reports there has been spike in the number of complaints they’ve received concerning a specific type of junk mail that could end up costing consumers for services they don’t need.
If you’ve been down the road of home buying you know there’s more involved than just realtor signs. There’s trips to the bank, paperwork, hiring movers, more paperwork, meetings with various agents, and even more paperwork.
And then once moved in, mail. Lots, and lots, of mail. But amid the welcome packets, bills, and city notices you’ll find some that look official and urgent from your bank but they’re not.
"I think if they are not scams they are unnecessary," said Barbara Green with the Better Business Bureau.
That is by design says Green. The letters themselves appear to offer different types of homeowners insurance. But the details are in the fine print. Closer inspection of some solicitations actually shows these companies aren’t affiliated with the lender it appears to be with at first glance. And for them to get your information in the first place, well, that is easy.
"Once you buy a house that’s a matter of public record," said Green.
But finding out who exactly got their hands on your info is a more difficult feat. Take a letter we found which claims to be from a company called OurSecureFamily.com for example. As the name suggests, they do have a website but no phone number is listed on it. We reached out by email, but the company didn’t tell us who they are or where they are based.
"I think a company that is transparent about who they are and what they do is more likely to provide the service you wish," said Ben Bellus, Iowa’s assistant attorney general for the Consumer Protection Division.
Bellus says it is unclear if sending these types of letters is legal in the State of Iowa.
"That would be for a judge to decide," said Bellus.
In Illinois they had a different opinion. In 2016 their Department of Financial and Professional Regulation filed a Cease and Desist order against the parent company of a North Carolina based corporation called the Mortgage Protection Division, another one of the companies whose mailers we got our hands on. It accuses the group of violating state law and orders them to stop, “using the name of any bank in its marketing materials and solicitations in Illinois”.
Back in the Hawkeye state Bellus says in recent weeks more Iowans are calling his office to complain about what they’ve found in their mailbox.
"Partially because of those and partially because of you (I9) we’re discussing this now to decide what we will do next on it right now," said Bellus. "I appreciate having the attention brought to it because frankly I wasn’t aware this was going on out there to this level."
Through email I9 invited anyone with OurSecureFamily.Com to an on camera interview. They’re yet to take us up on that offer but we did receive the following statement that says in part:
“Our company offers mailing and response services on the behalf of licensed life insurance agents allowing the recipient the opportunity to learn more about the potential benefits offered by the insurance companies they represent.”
I9 also asked to speak with a representative from Symmetry Financial Group, the parent company of Mortgage Protection Division, but they declined to comment.
The Better Business Bureau recommends if you’re ever considering sending money to a company that makes these type of solicitations to first check with your mortgage banker as there is a good chance you may already have a policy that covers what they’re offering.