During this recession many people are turning to term insurance as a way to fill the void left by decimated investment portfolios. Like me, most believe that the hole will eventually fill back up, but in the interim who wants to leave their spouse with a 401k that has been downsized to a 101k.

The other thing people have in common right now is that they want to watch their budget and spend the least amount possible on what they do need to buy, life insurance being no exception. So, not that this age old practice needed an open door, but what an opening for those agents and agencies that make their living shamelessly using bait and switch sales tactics.

Bait and switch has become more prevalent than in days gone by simply because there is so much competition via the internet for your business. It is not uncommon for people to get half a dozen quotes and, if they happen to inquire on the wrong website, a site that resells their inquiry, they may end up fielding calls from 15-20 or more agents. Some sites sell leads to multiple buyers and buyers have found a way to defray their cost by reselling leads. Sick little practice, but that’s not really the point. The point is the amount of competition.

There is a mindset with many agents in the world of life insurance today that getting the application wins the game. If an agent gets you to apply and take an exam you have invested in that agent and, even though it is a perfectly acceptable practice, you are not likely to apply with a second agent concurrently because the first agent has told you what you want to hear. Albeit subconsciously, when you choose that agent, almost always due to him or her giving you the lowest quote, you have placed that agent on a pedestal that they have conned, rather than earned their way on to.

And I always hear, “Well, if he doesn’t come through with that rate I’ll dump him and give you a call”. Hello!!!!! Bait and switch works precisely because statistics show that most people won’t do that. They have been through a 1-3 month application process and when the baiting agent calls and tells them the bad news, that the approved price is higher (switched) than the quoted price, but you probably won’t do any better anywhere else and since you’ve already invested this much time, well, the prudent thing would be to go ahead and put it in force, you do. Most of the time you really do. And you never call the agent back that quoted accurately to start with.

So, while I think agents that knowingly use bait and switch are scumbags, it takes two to tango and if that scumbag you’re dancing with lied to you once (the low quote you really didn’t qualify for), he will lie to you again (you won’t do any better anywhere else) and then he will never service your business because he knows that at some point you will come to the realization that he’s a scumbag.

So, assuming you really want to know the truth, how do you ferret out a bait and switcher right up front? First, always get a second quote. If one quote is higher, ask that agent why their quote is higher than the other quote and be honest with them. Tell them what company the other agent quoted and the price. If they tell you a reason that you won’t qualify for that lower rate, armed with that information go back to the first agent and ask them to provide you a copy of the underwriting guidelines they are using to conclude you qualify for the low rate. If they produce the information and it appears they are quoting accurately, call the higher quote agent back and see what he has to say. This may sound like work, but remember, if you dance with the scumbag it means you have helped him stay in business so he can keep on doing it to other people. If they won’t produce the underwriting criteria for you tell them you won’t do business with them. If they say that it’s true that you don’t qualify based on the written criteria but that they can probably get an exception, they’re probably lying. Don’t do business with them or at least don’t apply just with them.

Don’t be adverse to running dual applications. If you do them at the same time you can get it done with one exam and when both companies are done underwriting you will have the facts in front of you and it simply becomes a business decision. It has been taken out of the sales arena.

Bottom line. Don’t be too quick to bite just because the bait looks good. Remember, they wouldn’t practice bait and switch if it didn’t work and honestly I think most people, deep down, would prefer to do business with someone honest. Do your homework and find out if they’re honest before the hook is set.

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