10 August 2011

Philippine Prudential's Shady Selling Tactics

Yesterday afternoon, I got this text:
FINAL NOTIFICATION: Gud day! Ds s Ms..SHIELA REYES,, from PHIL.PRUDENTIAL Claiming Area,Ur 3 REWARDS and PRIVILEGES For Free are still here n our ofs.U need to Claim and Activate TODAY because the management will finalize all the records of our recipients who don't claim their rewards. For your claiming code w/u will need to present upon claiming;you may call exclusively in our makati ofs from: 9am to 5pm for further information. Tel.(02)7551532 upon receipt of this msg.Many Thanks and GodBless! (DISREGARD IF CLAIMED)
I'm extremely suspicious of strangers who text or call me, especially if they're trying to sell me something. This message I got from Ms. Reyes (+639486506960) sounded especially scammy. "FINAL NOTIFICATION"? This was the first time I'd ever heard I'd won anything from Philippine Prudential*; how could it be the final one?

The first thing I did was to google the landline number, and it turned out to be legit. This contact page for Phil. Prudential was the third search result—and the first two were about a kind of scam.

I thought then that the scammers might be using Phil. Prudential's real contact number to trick people into thinking they were the real deal. When I tried calling the number just to verify whether it really belonged to Phil. Prudential, it just rang and rang; nobody picked up.

But after sifting through some confusing posts, I finally managed to dig this up from New Media Philippines's blog: The Philippine Prudential Life Plans "Scam"?. I suggest you read that post and the horror stories in the reader comments first, but they seem pretty clear: the text I received is a selling tactic actually used by the company to get people to listen to their sales talks.

Enticed by the idea of prizes, people call the numbers or go to the offices and end up sitting through hours of spiels, after which they often buy an insurance policy out of sheer fatigue (I sat through all that; there must be something I can get out of this), confusion (Wait, so that paper you made me sign says you can take things out of my credit card account?) or gullibility (Can I have my prize now?). And if they want their money back, they have to battle unhelpful and even deceptive customer service agents before they can fully back out of the whole thing.

ABS-CBN did an expose on this scheme, and New Media embedded the clips at the bottom of their post. Unfortunately, a rep from ABS-CBN is carrying out a takedown campaign, so I wasn't able to watch the first one. In the second one, though, there's a rep from the Insurance Commission who describes the whole thing as "deceptive marketing." He also said that if the company continued to "tolerate" these sales practices, the commission might issue a cease-and-desist order.

The clips were uploaded in December, though, so it's been about eight or nine months. Considering that I got the text yesterday, these practices are still going on, and people are probably still getting duped.

Phil. Prudential is still registered with the Insurance Commission and still has a certificate of authority for the year. The company released this official statement after the ABS-CBN documentary came out, and the company opted to focus on one disgruntled customer and their awards, while ignoring all the angry consumers who've taken to ranting online. There's also this terribly written looks-like-a-blog-post-but-smells-like-poorly-done-damage-control text that's getting regurgitated by online content farms.

I think this whole thing is less a scam (i.e. a ploy to sucker people into paying for nonexistent or snake oil products) than it is a really aggressive and deceptive sales approach tied to really awful customer service.

At this point, though, I don't care whether they're a real company or if their products are actually any good. I'm definitely not answering Ms. Reyes's text.

* As if to add to the confusion, Philippine Prudential Life Insurance Company (PPLIC; referred to in this post as Phil. Prudential) shares similar names with Prudentialife Plans, Inc.; Pru Life Insurance Corp. of UK (Pru Life UK); and Prudential Guarantee and Assurance, Inc. Doesn't the Securities and Exchange Commission have rules on this? :/

1 comment:

  1. hahaha. my girlfriend got this kind of message too. its here in cebu too. thank you for this information. burn MARIE PATALINGHUG!!!