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‘get Smart about Insurance Week’ Kicks off Monday

1/16/2004

CONTACT: Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE – Have you added on to your home? Had a baby? Started a new business? If so, you could be due an insurance checkup.

"An annual insurance checkup will protect your family's financial health and give you peace of mind," said Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher. "Knowledge is your best policy."

"Get Smart About Insurance Week" kicks off Monday, and Floridians are urged to review their home, life, auto and property insurance coverage. Gallagher said it's also not too soon to start planning for hurricane season, which starts June 1.

A survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners shows that more than half of Americans believe they have enough insurance, but only one-third believe they understand their policies. Florida consumers who want to test their insurance knowledge and find out how they stack up against others who have taken the test can go to www.fldfs.com and click on the Get Smart About Insurance Week icon.

Gallagher said while an insurance checkup may reveal you have inadequate coverage, it also could show that you are paying for more than you need. He offered these tips:


· Make sure you are dealing with a licensed agent who works for companies licensed to sell insurance in the state. A business card is not proof of licensure.

· Shop among at least three companies for the best coverage at the best price.

· Ask about discounts. Some insurers offer discounts for multiple policies or longtime policyholders, or for an alarm in your home or automobile.

· A higher deductible may mean a lower premium, but understand the pros and cons of higher deductibles.

· Read your insurance policy carefully. It is a legal document.

· Keep your policy in a safe, waterproof location and take steps to protect your financial identity. Identity thieves have used stolen information to file fraudulent claims and collect insurance payments.

It is critical that consumers verify licensure of the agent and company they are dealing with, Gallagher said. Unauthorized insurance activity has left tens of thousands of Floridians with unpaid claims. Since February 2001, more than 200 unauthorized entities, marketing and administrative affiliates, agents and other individuals have been ordered to stop selling bogus insurance.

Further, in a continuing effort to provide timely and important information to Floridians about a variety of financial services topics and to warn consumers about potential scams, the department last year launched a new online system that allows Internet users to search an expansive consumer database or track a request for assistance as it is handled by consumer specialists. Consumers can also browse updated FAQs and Consumer Guides.

The new system, "Service Point," is available on the department's website at www.fldfs.com by clicking the "Service Point" icon.

In addition to the website, the department provides a consumer helpline, at 1-800-342-2762, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (EST) Monday through Friday. Helpline specialists can assist consumers with questions about their coverage, verify the license status of their insurance agent or insurance company, file a complaint or report possible fraud.