Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine has launched an investigation to see if men and women at the state’s military installations are being scammed by misleading pitches from insurance agents and companies.
The New York Times reported last week that agents given access to bases at various locations across the country were using “predatory sales practices” to promote policies that “provide small amounts of coverage for steep premiums.”
An Ohio woman said her son who returned this spring after 11 months in Iraq “unwittingly bought policies during his basic training at Fort Benning thinking he was enrolling in some sort of savings plan.” Fort Benning is located in Columbus.
Reacting to the report, Oxendine said in a telephone interview, “We are very concerned about the possibility that people are preying on the men and women in uniform. Anyone trying to take advantage of people risking their lives to protect our country will not be tolerated in Georgia.”
Faye Williams, spokeswoman for Robins Air Force Base, said the base does not sponsor the types of contact described in the Times article.
“We do not provide financial management information to our newcomers,” she said, “and any information provided through our family services organization comes from nonprofit agencies.”
Oxendine said the first step is to determine what financial seminars are being offered.
“Of course, we will need the cooperation of the military to do the investigation,” he said, “but I’m sure they will cooperate since we’re trying to make sure their soldiers are not being preyed upon.” He said investigators will also want to interview individuals who may have been impacted.
The commissioner said a variety of penalties can be used against agents and insurance companies that mislead or defraud the military.
“If an agent is engaged in inappropriate sales practices, he is subject to suspension, fine or revocation of his license,” said Oxendine. “If it crosses the line and becomes insurance fraud, it would be a crime.”
He said similar action could be taken against companies.
“Of course, we must determine if they knew what was going on, whether they participated and what involvement they had,” said Oxendine.
Military members who believe they have been misled or defrauded may call the state office at 1 (800) 656-2298, according to Oxendine, or contact the agency on the Web at www.gainsurance.org.
“When people contact us, they need to specify that it is in reference to the military investigation,” he said. “We can help them with their individual situation and also build a database for the larger investigation. We can also flag the information so it does not get involved with other investigations.”
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