Junk Mail Never Stops, Not Even After You Die

Image courtesy of Kelcey Perry

Selling health insurance to dead people is not a very profitable business, since they don’t need it. Yet because of bad information in marketing databases, plenty of dead people receive marketing mail… including Medicare supplemental insurance solicitations when they’re about to turn 65. Why do dead people keep getting mail, and is it possible to stop it before it sets off fresh grief?

Los Angeles Times consumer affairs columnist David Lazarus took on this question on behalf of a reader whose late husband, who died in 2002, would have turned 65 this year. He received messages from multiple insurance companies happy to sell him coverage. Being dead for 14 years apparently didn’t remove him from marketers’ e-mail lists, so what would?

The reader noted that some part of the federal government is aware that her husband is dead, since she receives his Social Security payments as his widow. Unfortunately, Lazarus learned, that isn’t where these messages come from: the government itself claims not to sell its mailing lists to third parties.

Instead, insurance companies buy their mailing lists from the same place as other advertisers, and they draw their data from public sources that put together profiles of consumers, including their ages. Lists of people who are about to turn 65 are plentiful and useful if you’re in the insurance business.

That makes rogue mailings to the dead harder to stamp out.

Some places to start include:

Why dead people are being targeted by health insurance companies: Bad data [Los Angeles Times]

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