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RICHMOND – For all the sun, fun and travel that comes with summer, the season also poses its share of risks. The State Corporation Commission's (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) reminds Virginians to double-check with their insurance agent or company to assure sufficient insurance coverage in the event of an illness, theft or mishap.

“Whether you’re grilling with friends, driving, or boating, don’t let a lack of insurance coverage put a damper on your summer fun,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “Anticipate summer hazards now to minimize their potential financial damage by ensuring your insurance coverage is adequate and up-to-date.”

The Bureau offers several tips to help Virginians protect themselves against potential risks. Keep your home, vehicles, belongings and personal information safe, especially when away on vacation. Know how much your auto and homeowners insurance will cover if someone steals belongings from your vehicle, home or yard. If hosting an event at your home – such as a yard sale, neighborhood cookout or pool party – know what type of insurance you may need if a guest is injured or if there is property damage. Also, understand your insurance coverages if severe summer weather damages your home or vehicles. Finally, understand any deductibles or coverage limits that may apply.

Additionally, the Bureau recommends you review and update your home inventory. This will help to ensure your homeowners or renters policy provides enough coverage for your belongings. Separate coverage may be needed for high-cost items like jewelry, art or electronics. A home inventory can help facilitate the claims process if damage or theft occurs. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners' free smartphone app — NAIC Home Inventory — makes creating a home inventory quick and easy. This app is available through the App Store and Google Play.

In the season of hurricanes and heavy rains, keep in mind that homeowners, renters and commercial insurance policies issued in Virginia typically do not cover damage to your home and belongings due to floods, surface water or storm surges. The federal government sells insurance covering direct flood and flood-related damage to homeowners, renters and businesses in eligible communities through its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). In most cases, there is a 30-day waiting period for a new flood insurance policy to take effect. To learn more about this program, contact your insurance agent or the NFIP at 1-800-427-4661 or visit floodsmart.gov. Some private insurers offer flood policies, so check with your insurance agent about the availability of a private flood insurance policy. In either case, ask whether your flood policy provides coverage for your personal property.

If you are planning a summer trip, understand your health insurance coverage in case you require medical treatment in an urgent care facility or hospital while traveling out-of-state or abroad. Bring health insurance information with you on your trip including identification cards and contact details for family members.

If you’re driving for vacation or to visit friends and family, make sure your auto insurance policy meets your specific needs before you leave. Check your liability limits to ensure adequate protection against personal injury or property damage arising from an accident while traveling. Keep your insurance company's contact information and a copy of your insurance card with you when you drive and know what to do if an accident occurs.

For information about these or other insurance-related topics, contact the Virginia Bureau of Insurance in Richmond at (804) 371-9741 or toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or visit its website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is offering time for members of the public to give oral comments by telephone on an application by Dominion Energy Virginia to increase its fuel factor for usage on and after July 1, 2022.

Dominion's application requests approval to recover the company's estimated Virginia jurisdictional fuel expenses of approximately $2.278 billion for the July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023, fuel year, and its projected June 30, 2022, fuel deferral balance of $1.020 billion, subject to its mitigation proposal.

The company presents two potential mitigation proposals that would spread recovery of the $1.020 billion projected fuel deferral balance over two or three years, respectively.

For a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month, the average weighted monthly bill would increase under the three alternative recovery proposals as follows: (1) increase $24.12 from $122.01 to $146.13, or by 19.8%, based on the full recovery of the deferral balance; (2) increase $17.23 to $139.24, or by 14.1%, based on recovery of the deferral balance over two years; and (3) increase $14.93 to $136.94, or by 12.2%, based on recovery of the deferral balance over three years. The company requests the Commission approve its three-year mitigation proposal.

The SCC has scheduled a public witness session to begin at 10 a.m. on July 6, 2022. Public witnesses intending to provide oral testimony must pre-register with the SCC by 5 p.m. on June 30, 2022. Witnesses will be called by the hearing examiner assigned to the case on July 6 in the order in which they registered. Public comments will be limited to five minutes per caller. The hearing will be webcast at: scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting.

Public witnesses wishing to provide oral testimony may pre-register in one of three ways:

  • Completing a public witness form for case number PUR-2022-00064 on the SCC’s website at: scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting
  • E-mailing the same form (PDF version on the same website as above) to SCCInfo@scc.virginia.gov
  • Calling the SCC at 804-371-9141 during normal business hours (8:15 a.m. – 5 p.m.) and providing your name and the phone number you wish the Commission to call to reach you during the hearing.

A public evidentiary hearing will follow the public witness hearing at 10 a.m. on July 7, 2022, in the SCC’s second floor courtroom at 1300 East Main Street in Richmond to receive testimony and evidence from the company, any respondents and the SCC staff.

For those who prefer, there is also an opportunity to provide comments in writing on the Dominion application. Written comments may be submitted through the SCC’s website by June 30, 2022, at scc.virginia.gov/casecomments/Submit-Public-Comments. Simply go to the SCC website, select "Cases" and then "Submit Public Comments," and scroll down to case number PUR-2022-00064. Then click SUBMIT COMMENTS.

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Contact: Andy Farmer, 804-371-9141

Case Number PUR-2022-00064 – Dominion Energy Virginia application to revise its fuel factor

RICHMOND – On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15), the State Corporation Commission reminds financial professionals and all Virginians to be on the lookout for signs of elder financial abuse and to know how to report it.

Each year, seniors lose billions of dollars as a result of financial exploitation, with losses averaging tens of thousands of dollars per victim.

Although financial abuse can take many forms, senior citizens (and those around them) should be aware of exploitation efforts involving the sale of investments, as well as attempts to access seniors’ investments accounts. Such efforts can include online or telemarketing scams selling fraudulent investments, or someone trying to gain control over a senior citizen’s investment accounts for their own personal gain. Perpetrators may be strangers, family members, trusted friends or caregivers, financial professionals or others. Seniors who have disabilities, rely on others for help or live alone may be particularly susceptible to financial exploitation.

“Seniors are increasingly being targeted by scammers,” said Ron Thomas, director of the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division). “Perpetrators often strike when seniors are most vulnerable, such as during a health crisis or after the death of a loved one. Social isolation and increased reliance on the internet for many daily activities can compound the problem," he said. In some cases, scammers may target their victims using personal details gleaned from obituaries and social media posts. Some perpetrators may exploit established relationships within seniors’ social and support groups to become more involved in their lives.

Some red flags of financial abuse could be as follows:

  • Surrendering passwords and control of finances to a new or overly protective friend or caregiver;
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents;
  • Unusual activity in investment or bank accounts including large, frequent or unexplained withdrawals or transfers between accounts;
  • Sudden changes to beneficiary designations or legal or financial documents involving investments, such as power of attorney, wills, trusts, retirement accounts or insurance policies, or suddenly missing documents;
  • Unexplained financial activities, such as the disappearance or “gifting” of assets, valuables or securities;
  • Fear of or sudden change in feelings toward friends or family members; and
  • A lack of knowledge by a senior about their financial status or reluctance to discuss financial matters.

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 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. The North American Securities Administrators Association, of which the Division is a member, also offers resources on its website at www.nasaa.org/investor-education/senior-investor-resource-center or at serveourseniors.org.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – When shopping for insurance, it is important to compare the same information from multiple carriers before making a decision about which policy is best for you.

The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) now offers a new resource – Insurance Shopper’s Worksheets – to help Virginians do just that. Along with an easy-to-use format, these worksheets include a brief description of coverages and common deductibles, and are designed to allow consumers to make an “apples to apples” comparison of costs for up to three insurers.

“Consumers should take the time to understand how their auto and homeowners policies work, what's covered and what isn't,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White, adding, “The Insurance Shopper’s Worksheets will help Virginians make well-informed consumer decisions when shopping for insurance coverage and choose a policy that best suits their needs.”

As part of the Bureau’s efforts to promote consumer protection and awareness, this shopping resource is a simple, effective and important component of the consumer assistance tools provided by the Bureau. To access the Insurance Shopper’s Worksheet and other helpful information, visit scc.virginia.gov/pages/Automobile-Insurance for information about auto insurance and scc.virginia.gov/pages/Homeowners-Insurance for information about homeowners insurance.

The Bureau also offers a variety of free insurance consumer guides. Copies of these guides are available on the Bureau’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance. For questions and concerns related to auto and homeowners insurance, contact the Bureau’s Property and Casualty Consumer Services Section at 804-371-9185 in Richmond or toll-free at 1-877-310-6560. 

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The Atlantic hurricane season begins tomorrow, and the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance encourages Virginians to review your insurance policies now to make sure you have the coverage you need if a hurricane or other natural disaster strikes.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 each year. Once a hurricane develops in the Atlantic, it may be difficult to find an insurance company willing to write related coverage for your home, auto or business until after the storm threat passes.

“Protect yourself physically and financially before the waters start to churn,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “Review your insurance policies and understand what is and is not covered. Contact your insurance agent or company or the Bureau of Insurance if you have questions.”

Keep in mind that even areas hundreds of miles from the coast can experience floods and other damage caused by hurricanes’ high winds and torrential rains. Most hurricane damage results from flooding, not high winds, and even minor floods can cause extensive damage to your home, business, or belongings.

The Bureau offers the following reminders:

  • Homeowners, renters and commercial insurance policies issued in Virginia typically do not cover damage caused by floods, surface water or storm surges. The federal government sells insurance for direct flood and flood-related damage to homeowners, renters and businesses in eligible communities through its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). In most cases, there is a 30-day waiting period for a new flood insurance policy to take effect. To learn more about this program, contact your insurance agent or the NFIP at 1-800-427-4661 or visit floodsmart.gov.
  • Some private insurers also offer flood policies, so check with your insurance agent about the availability of a private flood insurance policy. In either case, ask whether your flood policy covers your personal property.
  • Some homeowners policies require a special deductible for wind or hurricane losses. These deductibles are applied separately from any other deductible on the homeowners policy. Additionally, these deductibles may be written as a flat amount, such as $1,000, or they may be applied to the loss as a percentage of the insurance coverage on the dwelling. Remember that the deductible is the amount that you must pay before the insurance company pays its portion of a claim.
  • If your property is damaged by a hurricane, contact your insurance agent or company as soon as possible. Make any necessary emergency repairs, and take reasonable steps to prevent further damage to your property. Make a list of all damage to your property and include photographs, notes and repair-related receipts.
  • Prepare a complete inventory of your personal property now, including photographs, videos and serial numbers. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers a free smartphone app – NAIC Home Inventory – to facilitate this process. The app is available through the App Store and Google Play. Keep your insurance policies and home inventory together in a safe place.
  • If you must evacuate, know the name of your insurance company, and take your homeowners, auto and other insurance policies and your home inventory with you or make sure you have saved these important documents electronically. The policies will contain your policy numbers and the phone numbers of your insurance companies in case you have questions or need to file a claim.

The Bureau of Insurance offers free consumer guides for homeowners and commercial property owners with information about what to do when disaster strikes. These and many other consumer insurance guides are available at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance. The Bureau’s specially trained staff stand ready to assist consumers with their insurance-related questions and concerns. For more information, contact the Consumer Services Section of the Bureau’s Property and Casualty Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at 804-371-9185.

For additional emergency preparedness information relating to hurricanes and other types of disasters and hazards, visit vaemergency.gov.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Many investors rely on financial advisors to help them reach their financial goals. When an investment advisor or stockbroker leaves their position with a firm, however, their clients may have questions about what may happen with their investment accounts.

The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division) encourages Virginians to know ahead of time what to expect if their investment advisor or stockbroker leaves their employer. In the event this occurs, investors are encouraged to find out why they left and understand what will happen to their investment account.

Departures may be voluntary such as job changes, retirement or a move to another city. Or they could be involuntary – such as a termination or health issues. In either case, it’s important to know how a financial service professional’s firm will handle their departure, how your account will be serviced, and what information the firm will provide regarding the departing employee. The answers to these questions may vary from firm to firm.

“Don’t be taken by surprise if your investment professional leaves their firm or the financial services industry,” said Director Ron Thomas. “Know in advance what to expect. Ask questions and understand your options before determining what to do with your investment account.”

Some common questions that Virginians may ask include the following:

  • Will I be notified if my stockbroker or investment advisor leaves the firm or leaves the financial industry completely? If so, how and when will I be notified?
  • How can I find out why they left the firm?
  • How will my account be serviced if my stockbroker or investment advisor leaves?
  • Will I be assigned a new broker or advisor, or will my account be assigned “to the house” – a general account at the firm without an assigned individual managing the account?
  • Will I receive the same services I previously received with my broker or advisor?
  • Will the firm continue to collect the same fees from me? Keep in mind that broker-dealers and investment advisers have a responsibility to ensure that the services they charge you for are actually provided.
  • To whom can I direct questions or trade instructions?
  • What are my options regarding my account? For example, should I retain assets at the existing firm, or may I transfer assets to another firm?
  • Can I get contact information for my departing broker? Firms may have policies regarding whether a departing stockbroker or investment advisor can communicate with you or solicit you to transfer your account to another firm.

If you work with a specific advisor, broker or team, you should receive notice from their firm if they will no longer be servicing your account. If you receive such a notice, consider following up immediately to find out why. Also ask questions to understand the situation before your account is reassigned or you decide to transfer your account elsewhere.

For additional information, contact the Division at 804-371-9051 or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945 or email SRF_General@scc.virginia.gov. The North American Securities Administrators Association provides information about Reassigned Investor Accounts.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) has received approval of a federal waiver to establish the Commonwealth Health Reinsurance Program (CHRP). The SCC will be responsible for implementing and operating that program, which is scheduled to begin January 1, 2023.

The SCC was directed under Virginia Code Section §38.2-6606 to submit an application for a State Innovation Waiver to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and to the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury Department) to establish the CHRP. Under the waiver, insurance carriers are reimbursed a percentage of the claims of covered individuals with high annual costs.

House Bill 2332 was passed in the 2021 Special Session I of the Virginia General Assembly and signed into law on March 31, 2021, creating the CHRP and directing the SCC to seek the waiver application. The SCC submitted an application for the waiver to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of HHS, and the Treasury Department on December 30, 2021. The approval is for an initial period of up to five years.

Information about the CHRP is available on the SCC website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Reinsurance-Waiver

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The Internet, social media and messaging apps offer many useful features for daily life, but also new opportunities for investment scams. While social media platforms, online dating websites and dating apps may be good ways to meet people, Virginia residents should be wary if someone uses an online friendship or romance to solicit an investment or offer investment opportunities.

Individuals trying to promote investment scams may pose as potential romantic partners or possible new friends in an attempt to lure unsuspecting individuals into fraudulent investment schemes. These scammers may set online traps as well as use technology and social media platforms to profile targets. They may spend time getting to know their target and use flattery to try to win them over before introducing an investment opportunity.

The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division) encourages Virginians to be skeptical of investments offered by a new and unfamiliar online contact or friend request, and to do their homework before considering any investment.

“Don’t let your heart rule your head when making financial decisions,” said Director Ron Thomas. “The virtual world can make it easy for scammers to pretend to be someone who they are not. Whether online, by phone or in person, be leery of unsolicited investment offers and never share financial information with a stranger. Understand the risks and benefits of any investment and do not invest more than you can afford to lose.”

Thomas offers the following tips:

  1. Independently verify who is offering an investment and the details of an offer, as well as verify any app or website to which a stranger may direct you. Be wary of individuals who are unwilling to meet face-to-face or via clear video feed, or who attempt to pressure you into making an investment.

    Keep in mind that individuals offering investments are obligated to disclose all material facts regarding an investment, and they must disclose the risks associated with each product. Bad actors will often minimize or conceal risks of an investment and, instead, tout their alleged profits and payouts.
     
  2. Make sure any investment and the person offering it are properly registered. In Virginia, contact the Division at 804-371-9051 or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945, or email SRF_General@scc.virginia.gov. Investors can also search the federal Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website or visit the BrokerCheck platform offered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
     
  3. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be swayed by flattery or the promise of friendship or romance, or be enticed by claims of safe, lucrative or guaranteed returns with little or no risk. These representations are often a red flag for fraud, since all investments carry some degree of risk.

For more information, visit the Division’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Consumer-Investments or the NASAA website at nasaa.org.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Mandatory 10-digit dialing (3-digit area code + the 7-digit telephone number) begins May 14, 2022 for Virginians living in the 540 area code region. Local calls made with just seven digits will not be connected. This is the second step in a June 2020 relief plan approved by the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to phase in the new 826 area code. Permissive 10-digit dialing for the 540 area code region began November 13, 2021.

The 540 area code encompasses the northwestern and southwestern portions of Virginia; some of the larger cities include Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Culpeper, Fredericksburg, Front Royal, Harrisonburg, Radford, Roanoke, Salem, Staunton, Waynesboro and Winchester.

In the coming months, the inventory of available phone numbers with "540" as the area code is expected to run out. The SCC approved an overlay, which is the addition of another area code (826) to the same geographic region served by an existing area code (540). Beginning June 14, 2022, new telephone lines or services may be assigned numbers using the new 826 area code.

The good news: residents and businesses that already have phone numbers will get to keep them. No one’s 540 phone number will change.

Alarm, security, and elevator services and equipment currently located in the 540 area code and programmed to dial only seven digits must be updated or reprogrammed to dial the area code + telephone number for all calls in the 540 area code.

For more information on this topic, visit: scc.virginia.gov/pages/540-Area-Code-Exhaust-Relief.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is pleased to announce its release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the State-Based Exchange Technology Platform (SBE Platform) and Consumer Assistance Center (CAC) on eVA, Virginia’s central procurement system. This RFP is the next step for the Health Benefit Exchange (HBE) division of the SCC to successfully transition from HealthCare.gov to a fully autonomous, Virginia-based health insurance exchange.

Vendor proposals, which should incorporate the SBE Platform and CAC, are due May 2. The SCC expects to award the contract in mid- to late-summer of 2022.

HBE’s primary purpose is to promote a transparent and competitive marketplace, promote consumer choice and education, assist individuals with access to programs, premium assistance tax credits, cost sharing reductions, support the continuity of coverage, and reduce the number of uninsured.

The Health Benefit Exchange will:

  • provide eligibility, enrollment, and tailored customer service closer to Virginia citizens;
  • more closely coordinate with other state agencies and programs to increase the likelihood that individuals maintain health care coverage; and
  • directly handle consumer complaints and address consumer issues to design and optimize the consumer shopping experience.

Open Enrollment for plan year 2023 will begin on November 1, 2022. Virginia marketplace consumers will continue to shop for health plans on HealthCare.gov until November 1, 2023. The SCC anticipates that the full transition to its own state-based platform will be completed by the fall of 2023, in time for Open Enrollment for health plans that begin coverage January 1, 2024.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

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