Life insurance fraud is a black eye on both life insurance companies and life insurance customers. Both parties have been guilty of life insurance fraud and will be again – especially since, sadly, fraud seems to be on the rise according to most statistical measures.
Research by the non-profit The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud concludes that life insurance fraud committed by all parties costs an average household $ 1650 per year and increases life insurance premiums by 25%.
Life insurers are most often guilty of insurance fraud in the form of their agents doing "churning". This is where the agent seeks to cancel your existing life insurance policy and replace it with a new policy that is paid for by the "juice", or cash value, in your existing policy. Agents do this to earn more commissions for themselves without having to seek new prospects for business. Churning can result in increased premiums for a customer and clearly costs them out of their cash value.
Another insurance fraud practiced by agents, however, is called "windowing". This is where, being unable to attain a client's or applicant's signature on a necessary document but already having that signature elsewhere, the agent holds up a signed document behind the unsigned document, presses it against a window to make the light shine through, and traces over the signature with a pen in order to forge the signature of the client or applicant.
When big name insurance companies have their agents do bad things it makes big headlines, but the fact is that the public is far more guilty of insurance fraud than companies are. And of course making false claims is the thing they do the most, which is why all claims on life insurance death benefit payouts are subject to investigation.
But falsely stating background or financial income information is another form of insurance fraud often engaged in by consumers. They might be embarrassed by their medical history or income, or they may realize that if they tell the truth they will have their coverage diminished or their premiums will be very high. If a life insurance company finds out someone lied on their application they have the right not to pay the claim or not pay the full death benefit depending on the circumstances and the policy.
But there are things that buyers of life insurance can do to protect themselves against insurance fraud, since they don't have the great investigative resources that life insurance companies do.
Remember, when it comes to life insurance, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There's no free lunch.
Save all of your life insurance paperwork, including getting receipts for every penny you give your agent, and never ignore any notifications from your life insurance company.
Life insurance is never free and it's not a pension plan, although certain policies can indeed become self-funding – but they never start off that way.
Never buy any coverage that you feel strongly is unnecessary, never let yourself be pressured, and never borrow to finance life insurance.
Although it can be part of an investment portfolio, life insurance's number one role is protection against the unforeseen – and most people don't need life insurance in their later years. It is intended to be temporary.