A LEADING insurance company is to investigate complaints from the family of an elderly man who was persistently targeted by sales staff for insurance he didn't need.

The 77-year-old bachelor, who lives in a remote rural area, was visited numerous times in the 1990s and took out nine insurance policies even though he has a medical card.

Concerned relatives in Cork, who have just cancelled the policies and who are preparing a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman, say the man has paid thousands of euro from his savings over the past 15 years.

Many of the policies, issued by Combined Insurance, contain errors in the man's signature, address, date of birth and other personal details that his family say he would never have made.

The retired farmer took extreme measures to discourage further overtures from the company.

"In the end there he had barbed wire on the gate and I didn't know why he had it," said relative Michael Connor, a former garda from rural Cork. "But then I found out that when the gate was locked he [the insurance salesman] hopped over. It's white-collar crime."

The man's family believes that, because he had a medical card and a pension, many of the policies were unnecessary. They included hospital indemnity, income insurance, insurance against the loss of sight in one or two eyes, the loss of one or two limbs, the loss of one hand, and accident resulting in partial or total disability. He paid monthly by direct debit.

"It was totally unnecessary for him. What was he insuring himself for?," said Connor. "I spoke to them on the phone and I said I was very concerned about the whole thing and about the signature on some of the policies."

Of particular concern are errors on paperwork that his family does not believe he would have made. For instance, they say his name is signed without the middle initial, something he would not usually do.

"The salesman was there one time when my brother called," said Connor. "My brother asked him who he was and what he was doing there and he was told to mind his own business. Then my relative came out and he was too embarrassed to allow the debate to go on; he probably told my brother to leave him alone, that he was alright. The man was very cheeky."

The family will now alert the Financial Ombudsman and are seeking compensation for what they have believe are "totally inappropriate" policies and approaches.

Combined Insurance said it would take the family's concerns very seriously.

"We are undertaking a thorough investigation into the complaint and will ensure that the appropriate course of action is taken to resolve the situation. Like any other independent professional operating in the financial services industry, all our employees and associates need to comply with all relevant general laws and regulations."