Don't do it. Do not allow yourself to be recruited by a marketer touting cheaper health insurance or a guaranteed "can't lose" investment for your clients.
Many times the sales materials will be impressive, and fabricated letters from regulators or others will give the appearance of legitimacy. Some of the warning signs of an unauthorized or bogus health plan will be the use of trade associations, unions or affinity groups that a consumer must join to be eligible for coverage. Another warning sign is the use of the phrase "Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement" (MEWA). While MEWAs can be legitimate, they must be licensed by the state, and not many are. The marketers may claim their plan is a federal plan or an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plan and is exempt from state regulation, which is a definite red flag.
There is always someone who has a guaranteed, get-rich-quick investment seeking out insurance professionals with an established market of clients to whom they can sell these products. These bogus investments can range from communications equipment companies to real estate and land development opportunities, which almost always turn out to be unregistered securities. These investments have been so well packaged and pitched that some agents also purchased them, as did their family members.
Too often unsuspecting agents have allowed themselves and their clients to become victims by purchasing a less expensive health plan that never paid any claims, or an investment promising high returns that turned out to be a sham. The last time there was a peak in this type of activity, numerous consumers were financially devastated as they were left holding unpaid medical bills or worthless investments. As a result, agents lost their insurance licenses and were also subjected to criminal penalties and civil lawsuits.
As an insurance professional you are responsible for conducting necessary due diligence to avoid putting your clients at risk. The excuses, "I thought it was legitimate" and "I was fooled and am also a victim," are not acceptable defenses. When verifying an insurance company’s license or whether an investment is registered, make sure that you have the correct and complete name as some scams will use names similar to licensed companies and registered investments to create confusion. Don't do it; do not allow yourself to become another victim. Verify before you sell!
The Division of Agent & Agency Services recommends the following procedures agents may use when researching whether an insurance company is properly licensed to transact insurance in Florida. By offering these guidelines, we hope to provide a valuable service to all agents and another useful tool for protecting the public.
Agents will find that, in most cases, the simple procedures outlined below will easily identify those insurance companies presently authorized to conduct insurance business in Florida. An agent may use a print-screen function to capture a printout of the company as listed on the web site and keep in their file to show they found the authorized insurance company.
Insurance companies shown with an Authorization Status as “Active” and Authorization Type as “Permit” have only begun the authorization process, and are NOT authorized to conduct insurance business.
If the insurance company is not listed on the web site or the insurance company is shown with an Authorization Type not listed above, the agent should not place insurance business with that company. Also, just because an insurance company is authorized today does not mean it will necessarily remain authorized in the future. Always check.
This web site lists authorized insurers involved in insurance business in Florida. If they are not listed on the web site, agents should assume they are not authorized.
Agents who, directly or indirectly, aid or represent an unauthorized insurance company can lose their agent licenses or face other disciplinary sanctions. Please see section 626.901, Florida Statutes, to read the laws. To alert us of possible unauthorized insurance or unregistered securities being sold please notify us at askDFS@MyFloridaCFO.com.
The Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) oversees securities regulation. To check licensing/registration status you can call the OFR Consumer Complaint Hotline at 1-800-848-3792 or there is an online search capability at http://www.flofr.com/Consumer/Verify.aspx. The Division of Securities can also be contacted directly at (850) 410-9500 (Enforcement) or (850) 410-9893 (Registration).
Always go to http://www.floir.com/CompanySearch to search for insurance companies authorized to do business in Florida.