About the author

Paul Feldman is a FairWarning staff writer.

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

  1. 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>>>>?

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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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