I received a call from an unknown number on my cellphone last Friday and this was how our conversation played out:
Manila Bankers Life Insurance (MBLI): Good afternoon ma’am Clemens, this is _____ from Manila Bankers Life Insurance and I’m calling you today to inform you that in celebration of MBLI’s anniversary, you won an educational scholarship and health and wellness GCs.
Me: How did you get my number?
MBLI: You were recommended by one of our partner banks: BPI, BDO, Metrobank, RCBC, Security Bank, EastWest Bank, PNB, LandBank etc.
Me: What’s this about?
MBLI: As I said, you won an educational scholarship and health and wellness GCs which you must claim today or tomorrow from our office in Makati.
Me: All I need to do is claim it? There will be no product presentations, no seminars etc?
MBLI: Yes mam, you just need to pick them up at our office today or tomorrow and bring 2 valid IDs and a bank ID with you.
Me: Sorry but I can’t make it.
MBLI: Are you sure ma’am? Sayang naman ang scholarship and health and wellness GCs.
Me: I’m sure. Thanks for calling!
I made a quick search of Manila Bankers Life Insurance and was surprised to see the numerous incendiary comments and allegations of fraud:
From what I gathered, MBLI lures people with promises of an educational scholarship and other gift certificates. Once you claim your prize from their office, you will be subjected to a product presentation of their insurance products and then pressured to avail of the products. The “bank ID” adverted to in the call I received is actually a credit card or an ATM card, since the premium charges will be made via credit card or by allowing MBLI to withdraw from your savings account.
MBLI seems to be a legitimate insurance company though, and I know of someone who actually made use of the Datamex scholarship* being offered and sent her son to that computer school. I really don’t think that MBLI is a fly-by-night institution, so what gives with the unsavory reputation surrounding it?
Oh I don’t know, maybe it’s because of their abhorrent and misleading marketing and sales practices?
First, MBLI utilizes deception to secure a potential client’s attention. The modus is to use the scholarship and GCs as a bait to bring people to their office and once there, sell and sell hard the product to the captive audience.
Second, the aggressive selling of their life insurance product borders on intimidation. MBLI might argue that the final decision is still with the insured and short of pointing a gun to the insured’s head, the insured is perfectly free to say no to them. That’s all true of course, but what MBLI has managed to expertly exploit is the Pinoy’s inherent meekness and non-confrontational nature.
Let me backtrack a bit and tell the story of when I experienced a similar modus to illustrate this all too common Pinoy trait. Once when I was going around a home depot, I was approached by a really friendly beki to fill out a form and get a pen in return. A new pen?!?! Sounds good to me! While I was filling out the form, the fabulous beki started asking me questions about my income and started talking about their ultra high tech 10-in-1 microwave oven that was on special sale that day for only Php20,000.00 from the original price of Php65,000.00. I already knew that I wasn’t going to buy a pimped up oven but I let him continue talking for an extra 10 minutes just because I was too dyahe to put a stop to his sales pitch. Once I stood up and said goodbye, his supervisor made his move leading to an extra 2-3 minutes of blah-blah-blah. That’s 20 minutes of my life that I will never be able to reclaim.
Based on the numerous comments against MBLI, the sales people/ insurance agents are slick operators who somehow manage to convince the insured to hand over their credit card for what they claim is a simple verification process. Then when the credit card statement arrives, hello premium charge!
I was initially dubious about these claims because aren’t you supposed to sign a charge slip every time a charge is made on your credit card? I called my credit card provider to ask about this and was informed that in this instance once the card is swiped, the insurance company is able to get the card details and can set up an automatic charge on a regular basis. All that MBLI needs now to legitimize the charges is for the card holder to authorize the automatic charges and they can get that when you sign a form. So the spiel that the card will only be swiped to check or verify the balance is total BS.**
Thirdly, most Filipinos are underinsured or not covered by insurance at all, and MBLI’s shady business practices only undermine the industry’s effort to increase awareness on the need for life insurance. I am a big believer in life insurance and its benefits, so it pains me when I see this sort of behavior from someone in the industry drive people away and actually reinforce the wrong belief that insurance is a scam.
So if it’s not a scam, would I recommend going to MBLI to claim the freebies? If you have the time, you’re up for a few laughs or you want to rile up those slick salespeople and you’re sure you won’t be forced to avail of a product you are not interested in, then go right ahead. Otherwise, I personally think it’s a waste of time. Because even if MBLI is a legitimate insurance company, I wouldn’t want to deal with an entity that uses underhanded methods just to close a sale. And for the record, how much coverage does MBLI provide and how much is the premium? More importantly, what is its pay-out rate? Does it approve claims with little fuss, or will it make you jump through hoops backwards before it pays out a valid claim? I don’t know about you, but I have a strong feeling that it’s the latter.
I still don’t believe that it’s an out and out scam because you do get something in return for the money paid out, even if it is an overpriced insurance policy that you never wanted in the first place. But the manner MBLI chooses to sell its products is practically criminal, therefore it’s pretty much a scam in my book. My final verdict is to steer clear of MBLI and if you do manage to find yourself in their grasp, don’t let them near your credit, debit or ATM cards. Be rude if need be in order to save yourself from the headache of unwanted charges, and never ever sign something you haven’t thoroughly read first.
UPDATE: I wrote about what to do after being on the receiving end of Manila Bankers Life Insurance unscrupulous practices. Read the post here.
* The Datamex scholarship was a subsidy of Php7,000 on tuition fee.
** The phonebanker I talked with actually sighed when I asked her my question so I gleaned from that that she has had a lot of questions regarding unwanted charges from insurance companies. She said that the proper procedure is to call the bank right away to report the fraudulent charge and the charge will be frozen while they investigate the matter. But if the bank is able to prove that the charge was made with your consent, like if MBLI will show that you signed the charge authorization, then the charge will be rebilled to your credit card. My suggestion is to make a formal complaint letter to your bank, attach the links with the complaints against MBLI to prove that yours is not an isolated case, file a complaint with the Insurance Commission and attach that to your letter complaint to the bank too.