Posts Tagged ‘insurance’

Truth in (Insurance) Advertising

Monday, December 19th, 2011

 

A client, who has their auto, homeowners and umbrella policies through my agency, asked if I still her had her auto insurance because of something she’d received in the mail. I couldn’t imagine what could possibly make her think her coverage had magically migrated to another company and quickly assured her I was still the “agent of record” on her account. Then she produced some paperwork which appeared to be quite contradictory of the fact.

 

If It Looks Real It Must Be Real

 

It became apparent upon examination that she had received a randomly generated quote prepared with a mixture of true and false personal data. The quote was unique in format because it was presented like an actual “dec” sheet – similar to the declaration page(s) you get when you receive auto insurance policies. At first glance, the documentation looked official, which explains why my client thought twice about it and why it raised a big red flag with me.

 

My client’s mailing address, marital status and the first 4 characters of her driver’s license were also included and listed correctly. Her birth date was made up, she was listed as retired, which isn’t true, and there were only zeroes listed for her social security number – definitely a relief there! However, the make/model/year of her car and the VIN number matched up exactly.

 

I asked if she had been shopping the market online or had talked to anyone about lower rates. She assured me “absolutely not” because she never does things like that and she “closes those little boxes that always pop up”. Though I was glad to hear she wasn’t displeased with my service, I became more concerned about the methods used by the solicitous company.

 

Deceptive Advertising

 

Discounts were applied for low mileage, anti-theft, defensive driver, good driver, multi-policy, miles one way to work and senior citizen (not applicable in this particular case, as previously noted). Naturally, the semi-annual premium listed was in the low-ball range.

 

Line items such as “new acct” and “new app” in the billing section of the piece made it clear this was neither binding nor legit documentation to the trained eye. But presented in the fashion it was, it appeared like coverage was already in place. This also spurns the likelihood for people to send in payment under the assumption changes had been made to their existing contract – or at the very least to call the company that sent the quote.

 

Marketing is a necessity for any business, but this type of approach violates the parameters for “truth in advertising” as described by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Further investigation with the Illinois Department of Insurance confirmed my suspicions: the use of unauthorized personal information (such as the VIN#) is a privacy violation.

 

Lesson Learned

 

The haphazard nature in which facts were presented (and misrepresented) for this quoted premium illustrates there is very little chance that actual rates would come out anywhere near those mailed. Combined with the fact that unauthorized use of personal information was used to generate the mailing, it is alarming.

 

Those that sell lists for marketing purposes such as these glean information in ways we have yet to  imagine nor can keep absolute track of in the digital world. This situation serves as a valid reminder how crucial it is to keep a very close eye on the things we receive by postal and digital mail.

 

If you receive a similar type of questionable coverage letter for any type of insurance, complaints can be filed online through the IDOI. No one wants to do business with those that harvest personal information to obtain business underhandedly.

 

Kurt Rusch  CLU, ChFC

 

 

Debt & Income Insurance

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

In the world of insurance, there are two kinds: debt insurance and income insurance. Most consumers don’t think of it in that way, but it is important to understand what these classifications really mean and what they can provide to you.

Debt Insurance

Medical Insurance – pays for your medical bills so your family will not incur the debt of a medical procedure.

Automobile Insurance – pays for expenses incurred as a result of owning a car. The expenses covered will not only include the physical damage to your car but the liability that may incur to others as a result of you operating your car. This coverage is mandated by the states as well as physical damage coverage if the car is financed.

Homeowners Insurance – pays for physical damage to the home as well as liability that may arise while living in the home subject to policy limitations. And, as we all know, homeowners is also mandated when homes are mortgaged.

Long Term Care Insurance – pays for the cost of daily care when a person is no longer able to take care of themselves.

The common thread among these contracts is that all of them ultimately will pay someone else: mechanics, builder, caregivers, doctors and so on. Simply put, debt insurance helps us navigate emergencies and avoid life altering debt as much as possible. What debt insurance does not provide is protection of our income lifelines.

Income Insurance

The way to insure one’s income is by securing the proper amount of Disability Insurance. Debt insurance provides coverage of expenses incurred; disability insurance provides the money needed for your family to live on if you become sick or injured and unable to perform your job.

Many people mistakenly assume disability insurance is unnecessary because the Social Security system will provide for us in the event of a disability. While there is some truth to this, there are gaping holes which exist in actual benefit redemption.

First, the vast majority of claims that are filed with the Social Security Administration for disability are denied. 65% of initial claim applications were denied in 2009.* Secondly, the definition that social security uses for disability is vastly different than the verbiage commonly used by private providers. Over 51 million Americans classify themselves as fully or partially disabled. Only 8 million disabled wage earners were receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits as of June 2010.* Finally, the amount that you qualify for can vary greatly from the amount you may qualify for on a private contract. The average SSDI monthly benefit payment in 2010 was $1,065 per month. 52% of claimants received less than $1,000 per month.*

* Statistics as reported by the Council for Disability Awareness

In the world of consumer choices, there are two kinds: what you want and what you need. Evaluate your needs at a deeper level than face value; what do you really need to do to protect and provide for yourself and your family?

Kurt Rusch  CLU, ChFC