Finding an Insurance Agent
Illnesses, car accidents, fires and other unfortunate events can happen to anyone. One way of protecting our finances in the midst of such an event is to purchase insurance. Insurance can mitigate financial liability and provide funds and other assistance in the midst of a crisis.
Because many consumers are not aware of the types of insurance that are available, it is generally recommended that we purchase policies through a licensed insurance agent. A good insurance agent develops an understanding of the needs of you and your family and makes recommendations for affordable policies that also protect your long-term financial interests.
How to Find an Insurance Agent
It's important to select an insurance agent in the same way you would any other professional. Friends and family may have recommendations, although it's a good idea to shop around a bit. Checking out a Yellow Pages directory, such as Names and Numbers, can give you a list of agents in your area. In fact, the directory will break out insurance agents by specialization, making it easy for you to find an agent that sells the type of policy you need.
- Insurance TypesThere are many different types of insurance, so it is important to identify the type of policies that you'll need. It may be difficult to do this on your own, so finding an insurance agent who handles several different types of policies is often important.Typical types of insurance include health, life, automobile, and either renters or homeowner’s insurance. Depending on your line of work, you may also need business or malpractice insurance. If you work from home, talk to your agent about either a home business writer on your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance, or a separate policy that covers home office equipment and other liabilities.Not all insurance agents sell all types of policies. As a result, you may have to work with more than one agent. In some cases, an agent may be able to recommend a local colleague to you.
- Ask About ExperienceWhen shopping for an agent, don't be shy about asking about experience. This is particularly true if you have complex insurance needs. For example, if you live in an area that is prone to flooding or other extreme weather conditions, you may need specific policies or riders that can protect you in case you are affected by a natural disaster.As noted above, business owners and those who work from home have special circumstances, so it’s important to work with an agent who understands your needs and risks. If the agent doesn’t seem to understand these risks, move on to the next person on your list.Since insurance agents are licensed professionals, it is possible to look up their licensing status online. State insurance boards routinely update their databases and you may be able to find detailed information about your agent, including years of experience and whether he or she has ever been subject to disciplinary action.
How to Avoid an Insurance Scam
Unfortunately, many individuals each year are victims of insurance scams. While some of the better-known scams involve consumer fraud, such as staging a car accident and then filing an insurance claim, other scams are perpetrated by those who sell insurance.
One of the best ways to avoid scams is to do some due diligence on your agent. If you've thoroughly investigated the agent you hope to work with, there's a good chance you won't have any issues. On the other hand, many people have indeed been duped by unethical agents or deceptive advertising claims. This can create financial havoc for scam victims.
- Know the Types of ScamsOne of the first ways you can protect yourself against insurance scams is to know what they are and how they operate. Armed with this information, you are in a better position to protect yourself.
- Inappropriate PoliciesOne common scam, which is sometimes difficult to identify, is simply selling a consumer a policy that is not suited to their needs. Why would an agent do this? Because he or she receives the commission on the sale. It's a good idea to read up on the type of insurance you wish to buy before talking to an agent. This will give you an idea about the types of policies and an insurance strategy that may make the most sense for you. If the agent is recommending a policy that is unaffordable or simply offers more coverage than you would realistically need, find another agent.
- Inflated IncomeIn the same vein, some agents who are selling life insurance policies may list your income as higher than it actually is on your insurance forms. The agent does this so that you can qualify for a higher insurance amount, and he or she gets a larger commission.
- Medical Discount ProgramsSome magazine and late-night TV ads promote "medical" or "prescription drug" programs that may sound like insurance, but actually aren't. In many cases, they are simply discount programs that may provide you with some savings, but certainly won't cover the cost of a major illness or a long battery of tests.If you are considering one of these plans, understand what you are buying and ask questions. An honest salesperson will explain that this is not medical insurance but a discount program. You should also ask about doctors and pharmacies in your area who participate in the discount program. Before making a purchase, contact these physicians and drug stores to verify participation.
You work hard to make a good life for yourself and your family. Protect that work by getting the insurance coverage that you need. By working with a reputable agent, you'll be better able to weather emergencies and other life disruptions and get back on track in the shortest amount of time.