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SCC News

SCC Cautions Seniors That Increased Isolation During COVID-19 May Increase Risk of Financial Exploitation

FEB 23, 2021

RICHMOND – Social isolation, loneliness and increased reliance on the internet can potentially create a perfect storm for the financial abuse and fraud victimization of seniors. Social distancing and quarantines intended to protect against the spread of COVID-19 also have increased social isolation for many seniors, making them more vulnerable to financial exploitation.

“Financial abuse can happen anytime, but perpetrators often strike when seniors are most vulnerable, such as during a health or other crisis or after the death of a loved one,” said Ron Thomas, director of the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division). “Increased reliance on the internet by isolated seniors for social interaction, shopping, electronic payments, banking and investing also exposes them to online scammers, who can hide behind a cloak of anonymity.”

Seniors lose billions of dollars annually to financial fraud, with the loss to individual victims averaging tens of thousands of dollars. Perpetrators may be strangers, family members, trusted friends, members of a senior’s social or support groups, financial professionals or others.

Although in-person visits may not be possible due to COVID-19, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of isolation and financial exploitation. Thomas urges Virginians to stay in touch with older family members, friends and neighbors by phone, text, email, video calls or other means. “Remind seniors that scammers follow the headlines and may try to exploit the pandemic. Warn them about the red flags of fraud, which are often the same regardless of the type of scam,” he said.

Warning flags that may indicate financial abuse include the following:

  • Surrendering passwords and control of finances to a new or overly protective friend or caregiver;
  • Fear of or sudden change in feelings toward friends or family members;
  • A lack of knowledge about their financial status or reluctance to discuss financial matters;
  • Sudden or unexplained changes in spending habits, or to their will, trust or beneficiary designations;
  • Unexplained financial activities, such as checks made out to cash, unusual loans or disappearance of assets, valuables or securities;
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents.

Before making any investment decision, Thomas suggests the following:

  • Contact a trusted friend, family member, company or advisor for advice;
  • Make sure an offer and the person offering it are properly licensed or registered, as well as the person’s registration/license status and disciplinary history;
  • Investigate before you invest or provide personal or financial information or money;
  • Avoid “can’t miss” opportunities promising “guaranteed returns” or big returns with little or no risk;
  • Understand the types of scams and tactics scammers use so you can protect yourself against them;
  • Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics that urge you to act quickly and without giving you time to do your research.

Thomas urges Virginians who suspect they or a loved one are the victims of investment fraud or possible senior financial exploitation to contact the Division of Securities and Retail Franchising at 804-371-9051 in Richmond or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945. For more information, visit the Division’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Consumer-Investments or the North American Securities Administrators Association’s website at nasaa.org/56731/social-isolation-and-the-risk-of-investment-fraud/ or visit serveourseniors.org/.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

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SCC’s Bureau of Insurance Recovers More Than $14 Million for Consumers in 2020

FEB 19, 2021

RICHMOND – Last year, the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) helped thousands of consumers recover approximately $14.3 million in refunds, benefits, restitution and other payments related to their insurance coverage. These efforts are only one of the many ways in which the Bureau assists Virginians who have insurance questions or concerns – whether those consumers are shopping for insurance, trying to understand what their insurance policy covers, have questions about premiums, or question why their insurance company did not renew a policy or why it denied a claim.

As part of its recovery efforts, the Bureau receives tens of thousands of inquiries and handles thousands of formal complaints each year. Consumers may contact the Bureau if they have insurance questions or want to file a formal complaint against an insurance company, agency or agent.

During 2020 alone, the Bureau’s Life & Health and Property & Casualty divisions handled more than 14,000 phone inquiries, almost 3,100 formal consumer complaints and 171 appeals of adverse decisions issued by managed care health insurance plans. Among other things, these two divisions handled complaints and appeals concerning claim denials, improper or delayed claims processing, cancellation or nonrenewal of insurance policies and improper billing.

As a result of complaint investigations, managed care appeals and market conduct examinations, the Bureau’s Life & Health and Property & Casualty divisions recovered more than $12.2 million worth of benefits and savings for roughly 7,300 consumers in the form of refunds, insurance benefits, interest payments, reimbursements, additional claims payments and reinstated coverage.

In addition, the Bureau’s Agent Regulation Division conducted 605 investigations and recovered more than $2.1 million in restitution for consumers during 2020 through its Investigation Units. This amount represents refunds and payments provided to policyholders due to improper agent activities.

“Protect yourself financially by reviewing and updating your insurance regularly, understanding the terms of your policy and your rights, and knowing where to turn if you need help,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “We can look into whether a company has acted in accordance with its policy and the law.”

In addition to recovery efforts for consumers, the Bureau helps Virginians in many other areas concerning their insurance. When shopping for insurance, the Bureau encourages Virginians to compare prices and terms and make sure to select coverage that fits their particular needs. The Bureau’s specially trained staff can assist consumers with their insurance questions and investigate any complaints they may have with their insurance carrier.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau is working hard to help Virginians become well-informed insurance consumers. It offers outreach and educational materials about many types of insurance including health, life, homeowners, auto, long-term care, commercial insurance and Medicare. Consumers may view these materials, search for a licensed insurance company or agent in Virginia, view updates on key laws impacting insurance in Virginia, and much more on the Bureau’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance.

For more information, contact the Bureau of Insurance toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at (804) 371-9741 or visit www.scc.virginia.gov.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

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