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March 19, 2015

Texas Business Agrees to Cease Misleading Solicitations Intended to Generate Sales Leads for Insurance Agents

The Lead Connection Inc. tried to collect personal data through mailings to Iowans that the company would then market as leads to sellers of funeral insurance

(DES MOINES, Iowa) A Denison, Texas business and its owner, Chris Etheridge, will cease all lead generating contacts with Iowans, through an agreement with Attorney General Tom Miller.

The agreement, called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, settles a dispute over whether mailings to Iowans from The Lead Connection Inc. (TLC) were misleading and violated Iowa’s Consumer Fraud Act.

In February, an Iowan reported to the Consumer Protection Division that she received a mailing saying she might qualify for “a state regulated program” to cover up to $35,000 of her eventual funeral expenses. The mailing asked her to provide her phone number, her age and her husband’s age, in order to receive free information.

“This alert Iowan thought something wasn’t right, and she was correct,” Miller said. “The mailing left the impression that it involved a ‘benefit’ through a government program, but this business was actually trolling for names to sell to insurance agents.”

In addition to references to a “state regulated program” that provided “benefits” to qualified Iowans, Miller said that the mailing came in an envelope designed to look like an official governmental communication. The envelope referred to an enclosed “document” providing a “benefits update,” and prominently cited laws against mail tampering.

According to Miller, Iowans who expressed an interest by completing and returning the postcard provided in the mailing would have ended up on a “lead list” sold to insurance agents eager to sell funeral insurance.

“Iowans deserve to get straight information about what they’re being solicited for, and companies trying to generate leads can’t mislead them in order to capture and sell their name for marketing purposes,” Miller said.

Owner Chris Etheridge claimed that the mailing had only gone to 250 Iowans, as a test mailing, and that no Iowans had responded. He also admitted that although the mailings bore a return address in Durant, Oklahoma, TLC’s only business location is in Texas.

Miller emphasized that Iowans need to protect their personal information, and urged Iowans to be wary of government look-alike mailings.

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