About the author

Paul Feldman is a FairWarning staff writer.

20 comments to “AARP, a Critic of Scams Aimed at Seniors, Draws Flak Over Its Membership Marketing Practices”

  1. Mimi McLaughlin

    I now have 4 fake plastic membership cards that go in the landfill, and my membership does not expire until Dec.

  2. Eric

    I joined AARP for a few years and got too much junk mail from AARP and AARP’s official sponsors trying to sell me various products. I stopped my AARP membership and am happy with my AAA (Auto Club) membership. I highly recommend AAA memberships even for people who don’t drive anymore. AAA (Auto Club) IS looking out for your interests, even if you don’t drive. AAA has a variety of services that do not require an auto, e.g., banking, annuities, insurance, travel, shopping discounts, credit cards and more.


    I am receiving AARP renewal notice every month. That is a waste of money from AARP membership Department, because I paid them 3 years of membership and I even received the free gifts that was promise to give us for paying 3 years of membership and then every month I still received renewal notice. Is AARP membership crazy wasting this mailing of renewal every month? Sometimes even twice a month. Please AARP your membership department is WASTING MONEY and ANNOYING MEMBERSHIP TOO

  4. Delbert Nordbrock

    I looked up on the internet about why i get all the mailings from aarp after renewal because this year i keep an index card about my subscriptions and renewals because in pass years I would have to go back in my checkbook. I keep it with my monthly budget pouch. AARP is not the only one. To me companies that send multiple renewal notices after you renew are committing fraud.

  5. Ticked Off But Would Like AARP to Be Held Accountable

    Glad and sad to see this article. I, too, receive way too many renewal “requests” in the mail and it really ticks me off knowing many seniors will pay because they are duped into thinking they owe it NOW. All I can think of is how can I get an AUDIT of their accounts to see how many accounts are a) paid up for many many years, b) have duplicate accounts, etc.

    As everyone here says – this is an organization that is supposed to watch out for seniors, not take advantage of them.

    Would these multiple early “renewal” requests fall under any deceptive trade type laws? Is there a particular government agency to which complaints for this type of practice should be sent? Any attorneys out there that could answer this?

  6. Kathleen Beasley

    Here’s an angle that your story is missing: Not only does AARP overly solicit for renewals, but they also keep you on the membership rolls forever apparently — even when you don’t pay. I presume this is to inflate their membership numbers to continue to have clout in Congress. I haven’t paid to belong for at least 5 years, maybe more. I stopped when I realized they are not at all aligned with my beliefs or philosophies. Yet I continue to be carried as an active member and receive all of their magazines, renewal letters warning me about membership expiration, business offerings etc. They have even updated my address without my asking them to and have followed me to my new home with all of this junk. I believe that to be successful, they have to show huge enrollment so they can argue they speak on behalf of all seniors and so they can tell their business partners they are providing a large “captive” audience for products. If they trimmed their list to only those who actually pay, the story might be quite different.

  7. Tim Ho

    “Every time,” she said, “they paid the $16,” … apparently so yet the last efforts to encourage my renewal seemed o be priced at about $30.

  8. d.

    My Mom keeps getting bills every month for their annual fee. I’m not sure how many extra ones she has paid through the years. They are a rip off! I sent the check in July and they say it expires in Nov. to me that is not a year! They need to be stopped.

  9. Janet Andrews

    READ THIS CAREFULLY: He also said members who complain about multiple renewal notices will get a single mailing 30 days before the renewal deadline.

    There should be checks and balances that does not allow them to charge for a duplicate membership. There is no excuse for this behavior.

    I have been scammed by a duplicate membership and am angry. If their shady practices do not stop I will not renew.

  10. Li Whitmer

    I renewed membership for five years at a price higher than others quoted at Senior Center; guess what get monthly renewal notices and trash them. Supposed to get insulated travel bag when pay dues; however, received pieces of junk parts and notified AARP three times to said not received as promised and told them never again. Will never pay dues with these crooks. I’ve learned my lesson not trust AARP, just political BS. Complained to them about non support for increase in Medicare costs and supplemental costs and not coverage to nil effect. Posted with AARP about age discrimination when laid off several years ago because boldface comment that at my age didn’t fit into Cessna’s future plans>>>>?

  11. Katherine Hutt

    After this story appeared, AARP asked us to reexamine the number of the complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau. BBB takes seriously our responsibility to provide helpful information to the public and to encourage responsiveness to customer concerns. Our internal review found that the number of complaints against AARP that we originally reported included some complaints that we did not process because they fell outside of our parameters. A number of other complaints were against AARP’s affinity partners and not AARP itself.

    The total number of complaints filed with BBB against AARP headquarters in Washington, DC was 254 for the three-year period 2015-2017. Our original assessment that 160 of those complaints were about membership and solicitation issues remains correct.

    Katherine Hutt
    BBB national spokesperson

  12. Brian K

    I have been an AARP member for about 10 years and perhaps because I renew for 5 years at a time, I have not received an overabundance of mailed offers. I simply renew with the first renewal reminder and they stop. Perhaps, AARP is overly aggressive in its attempts to retain members that don’t renew or considering canceling. Whenever I stop a subscription to a magazine (which is frequent, since most are online), I do get a barrage of we want you back offers, so AARP probably isn’t much different. If that’s the case, they might want to tone it down.

    I take advantage of the hotel and rental car discounts, which save me the member fee many times over. The newsletters are interesting, and they have valuable info on their website. I also appreciate that they advocate for senior rights. I realize that they take advertising in their newsletters, magazine, and website to support their organization, but very few organizations don’t.

  13. Frank

    AARP is a political organization that I refuse to join or support. If you don’t join, after a few years they will stop sending junk.

  14. Nancy

    AARP renewal notices include a fake card that looks like the real card, except they do NOT have the expiration date on them.
    So when member opens up renewal notice, the card DOESN’T HAVE expiration date on it.

    All members get one renewal notice 6 months before expiration of membership, then another notice is sent 2-3 months before expiration. Some members, not all, will get notices every month from 6 months till expiration date, which is a lot.

    BUT THERE ARE OTHER NOTICES AARP ALSO SENDS OUT: AARP also sends out something called Membership Order Form which goes to all mailboxes. It is considered “advertising mail” and can’t be stopped. So someone who is paid up to say 2023 might get this in their mailbox.
    Some of these mailers even have a clear window on them just like a bill.

    Another mailer is the “Renewal Commencement Form”, which also goes to all mail boxes, is an advertisement mail and can’t be stopped. Can you see how the wording would make someone think they have to renew?

    The mailers don’t include the phone number to AARP.

    Some members have insurance with AARP so they can get very anxious about their memberships expiring as their insurance often is tied to the membership.

    Sometimes members or non members get invoices they didn’t ask for or don’t remember asking for, and it is unnerving for them. These will say 1st notice, or 3rd etc… and the wording is rather severe.

    Yes, AARP puts the expiration date on the permanent card, but the fake cards in the notices do not have the expiration date.

  15. Ann

    I work for a call center that takes incoming calls for AARP. The majority of the calls that I take involve exactly what you are referring to in your article.. Deceptive mailings telling members that their membership is about to expire. Those of us who are answering these calls often have what is called a “star offer” that we have to offer to the member on all of these calls, even if the member is calling in to complain about renewal notices. Most of the “star offers” are asking the member if they would like to renew or if they would like to be set up on automatic renewal. A lot of these members have memberships that are good anywhere from a year out to six years out or more. If we do not offer the “star offer” then we are written up for insubordination and can be terminated for not making the offer. We sympathize with these members and all of the mail they are receiving to renew their membership. Obviously the name and email address I am giving below are fictional as I do not want to be terminated from my employment

  16. Amen Dez

    My first and to be only AARP membership caused an overwhelming blast of spam of every type — phone, post, e-mail. Tiny fine print on their website allowed me to unsubscribe from this junk. Now they are spamming my 19 year old grandchild. AARP membership did nothing for me. As RD Blakeslee said, AARP has become self-serving trash.

  17. RD Blakeslee

    A self-serving insurance selling outfit, not representative of senior’s interests anymore.

    They used to enclose prepaid mailing envelopes with their incessant mailings, so at least you could tear up and mail back their garbage,but now you have to dispose of it with the rest of your trash.

  18. Margaret Engel

    Thank you for this article. I just went through this with my mother, who received the same “your membership is expiring” letter. No, it’s not expiring for another 18 months. AARP should be required to say in its letters WHEN the membership is expiring. It’s so surprising to me that this group, which has good Medi-gap insurance (although price keeps rising), would jeopardize its reputation with this bush-league practice of over-solicitation/dishonest letters.

  19. Theresa

    I have complained about this more than once. I’m ‘only’ 66, so I’m still able to keep my finances organized, but I’ve been concerned about those who cannot and send money even when they are completely paid up….and now this article confirms this. I have sent back the duplicate billings with notes asking them to stop sending these until our membership is truly due in March … obviously no one reads these notes!!! We are tempted to not renew our membership next year because of this and because we VERY SELDOM use their benefits.

    Thank you for this article.

  20. Matthew Mabey

    I agree that AARP ought to be holding themselves to a higher standard, but laws regarding both junk-mail (e.g. solicitations through the mail) and telemarketing need to be beefed up and given teeth.

    The telephone companies shouldn’t be allowing “Liz” the robo-caller to be spoofing numbers on Caller ID or to be calling me repeatedly when I’m on the “Do Not Call” list. (I trust I am not the only one that she calls multiple times every week.) They are technologically complicit in such illegal behavior and should be held accountable.

    The junk-mail industry is similarly dependent on technology and is aided and abetted by technology companies that should be brought to rein. The technology companies’ role in this does not fall under free-speech protection. They are selling data that should not belong to them. They acquire it through theft, fraud, and coercion. If I used any of those three methods to acquire something from someone on a street corner, the police would arrest me. Why shouldn’t these companies held to the same standards?

    I imagine that AARP’s problem is that they contract for subscription services. The fact that this behavior is the industry standard is probably the reason that they end up being associated with it. The service being offered to AARP and others is not free-speech and thus should be throttled by regulation. There has to be accountability.

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