Buying insurance can be confusing for anyone. But the elderly are especially vulnerable to agents who use high pressure and scare tactics to gain access to their life savings. INSIDE EDITION's investigative team went undercover at a giant insurance
"You need them almost in tears. Okay? You need them almost in tears," Marvin Davis told his class of future Bankers Life and Casualty insurance salespeople. "You need to treat these people like you're talking to a child."
Another instructor, Bill Baylog, told his students, "You've actually got to put them in the nursing home."
These men are teaching new insurance salespeople the tricks of the trade. But what they don't know is that an INSIDE EDITION producer is in the classroom with a hidden camera.
Baylog and Davis both teach courses training people for their new jobs as agents for Bankers Life and Casualty, a giant, 100-year-old insurance company based in Chicago, Illinois. Every day the company and its agents reach out to thousands of senior citizens across the country.
They are offering to sell them insurance that would enhance Medicare, the government-provided health insurance for senior citizens.
That's exactly why 81-year-old Rose Hosford says she let a Bankers Life and Casualty agent into her Northern California home last year. But she says once he was inside, he never mentioned Medicare, and instead convinced her to put nearly $75,000 her late husband had left her to live on into a Bankers Life and Casualty account. She can't withdraw from the account without paying huge penalties until the year 2019..."if" Hosford lives that long. It was a foolish investment for her that paid a big commission to the agent and the company.
"I had made a terrible, terrible mistake," Hosford told INSIDE EDITION.
"If you can just focus on getting in the house on Medicare, all the other stuff will happen just because you're sitting in front of them," INSIDE EDITION cameras recorded Baylog telling future salespeople.
Bill Baylog is a regional director for the company, and he is coaching a training class in Charlotte, North Carolina. He teaches the students how to spot a "live one."
He told students, "Some prospects, they just have a sound. Where you know that this is going to be a good house. There's a sound of wealthy people, sick people, uneducated people."
He also teaches them to play on what the elderly fear the most...confinement to a nursing home.
"You've actually got to put them in the nursing home during the presentation," Baylog said. "I know that you don't want to talk about your son changing your diaper, or your daughter feeding you, or somebody else giving you a sponge bath any more than I do."
Marvin Davis, another Bankers agent, also trained his new colleagues how to target the elderly.
"How many people watch nature shows? And you watch how the big cats track their prey. That's what you're doing, you're stalking. Okay, or you see the buzzards up in the sky, they're circling," Davis told students. "You're trying to open that worry box. You need them almost in tears."
Tears? Worry box? Could Davis just be a rogue agent? INSIDE EDITION obtained a 2008 "corporate" training document which says: "If you have done your job properly, you have disturbed them by opening their worry box."
"We pushed the fear so much that we'd see people cry in the house," Mike McEwan told INSIDE EDITION.
McEwan was an independent agent for Bankers Life and Casualty for more than four years before he was terminated in 2009. He says he was told by management to use all kinds of unethical practices.
"It's actually encouraged. The more kinda con man you are, the higher up the ladder you get."
The worst thing, McEwan says, is convincing elderly clients like Rose Hosford to put their savings into an "annuity" that can actually tie up their money far beyond their life expectancy. Selling annuities has become so notorious, Davis told his class not to even mention the word:
"I avoid the word annuity until I need to use it. I just go over the features and benefits and let them tell me that they want it. And then they realize it's an annuity," he told the members of his class.
INSIDE EDITION hired a woman named Mary, who asked that her full name not be used, to make an appointment with Bankers Life and Casualty to discuss buying a Medicare supplemental policy. We set up hidden cameras in a house in Charlotte and observed from another room. Consumer advocate Chris Markowski was also there to observe.
The agent who showed up is DeSean Flournoy. It didn't take him long to change the subject from Medicare to that annuity policy.
"You need to get into a fixed annuity," he told Mary.
Chris Markowski called the tactic a classic bait and switch, and told INSIDE EDITION that there is absolutely no annuity that makes sense for someone who is 73 years old.
After a two-hour sales pitch, Mary insisted she only wanted to buy the Medicare supplemental insurance policy. But when Mary said her children had her checkbook, Flournoy suggested that he drive her to the bank.
INSIDE EDITION's Matt Meagher caught up with Flournoy at the bank.
"Do you feel the least bit slimy driving her to the bank here to get a payment?" he asked Flournoy.
"No I do not. Why would I do that if she's looking for Medicare coverage and she needs to get Medicare coverage, why would I feel slimy by doing her a favor?" he responded.
"Driving her to the bank," said Meagher.
Flournoy asked, "Why wouldn't I? What's wrong with that?"
According to trainer Marvin Davis, apparently nothing. INSIDE EDITION's undercover producer witnessed him teaching that same tactic.
"What if she doesn't have the cash?" asked the INSIDE EDITION producer.
"See if she'll let you drive her to the bank," said Davis.
"Drive her to the bank?" the producer asked.
"I drove people to the bank," Davis said.
Matt Meagher tracked down Marvin Davis and asked him, "Why would you tell these salespeople to surround the elderly like buzzards? Isn't that just taking advantage of the elderly?"
"Oh boy, I don't know where you get this information from," said Davis.
Meagher asked him, "You're the person that's teaching people to go out and defraud the elderly, aren't you?"
"I don't know, am I?" said Davis.
He then got in his car and drove off.
As for Rose Hosford, she says she tried to get her money back but the Bankers Life and Casualty agent who sat for hours in her home, pretending to be her friend, never returned her calls.
"It caused me an awful lot of sleepless nights, that's my husband's hard earned money," Hosford said.
Bankers Life and Casualty told INSIDE EDITION they are conducting an investigation into the sales tactics depicted in our report. They say they believe the problems are limited to one branch office and do not reflect its normal "sales and training practices". They also say they do not condone the practices we observed, and have taken appropriate action to reinforce the company's standards with all its agents.
Based on INSIDE EDITION's findings, the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging is now investigating the company.