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I received a letter in the mail from a company called Pension Benefit Information saying that they had been engaged by my former employer to confirm my current mailing address because I have a balance in their 401(K) plan. The only way they provide to confirm my address is to mail back a form they included with the letter.

They seem like a legitimate business, but it seems just phishy enough to make me double check.

Here's a link to their BBB rating info.

My concern is that their BBB profile makes no mention of the URL included in the letter: http://aboutmyletter.com/.

Is this legit, or am I being scammed?


Update

It turns out that this was legit. My former employer uses this company to track down former employees and notify them that they have a balance left in their old retirement account. Once I returned the form, I was contacted by my former employer.

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Why not call your previous employer and ask them if it is legit. –  JohnFx Jun 19 '12 at 21:39
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2 Answers 2

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I have no personal knowledge of this company; I've only looked over what I found on the web. Overall, my judgement is that Pension Benefit Information, Inc. of San Rafael, CA is likely legitimate and aboutmyletter.com is one of two sites run by them (the other being pbinfo.com).

These two sites are registered to Pension Benefit Information, Inc. (aboutmyletter uses Network Solutions privacy service but gives the company name; pbinfo uses their name and San Rafael address.) They are in the BBB. The president (of the 8 employee Co.), Susan McDonald, has testified (PDF on .gov site) before Congress about business uses of SSNs. They made a (very schlocky) video, which has an interview with McDonald after several canned, generic, "impressive" introductions. I found the interview convincing of a person actually running a small, real business of this type. A short version is on their site, long version here. There are some queries about their legitimacy online (like this one), but I found nothing negative on them, and one somewhat positive. One article talks about the suspicions they run into when contacting participants, and has some advice. Also, scammers are unlikely to pay the U.S. Postal Service money to send paper letters.

So what are the dangers? Money or identity. So don't pay them any fees (now or later), especially since it looks like their clients (retirement funds) pay on the other side. As for identity information: What's in the letter? Don't they show that they already know a bunch about you? Old employer? Maybe the last four digits of your SSN? Your address (if this is not the forwarded-by-IRS type of contact letter). Other things, maybe? What information would you be giving up if you did respond to them fully?

You could try contacting your old company directly (mentioning PBI, Inc,), although on their website PBI says you'll have to go through them. (They probably get paid for each successful contact, and deserve it.) Still, responding through mail or telephone to PBI seems like the reasonable thing to do.

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To boil down what mgkrebbs said: Yes, you should send back the form, provided that it doesn't ask for any more information than address, current telephone number, and email address. Don't ever, ever provide any bank account information. Nor social security number unless you're absolutely positive of the validity of the requestor.

Phishing via regular mail is very rare. It's way expensive compared to email, which is basically free, plus the U.S. Postal Service takes mail fraud fairly seriously (and has the legal statutes to prosecute).

So: don't obsess; send the form back.

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protected by Chris W. Rea Jun 19 '13 at 2:52

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