Tips for Buying Insurance on the Internet
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Consumers need to be aware of ways they can protect themselves when buying insurance on the Internet. Shopping for insurance does not change simply because you are purchasing online.
- Confirm the company and agent are licensed. Find the name of the insurance company or companies involved in the plan. In order to sell insurance in Wisconsin, companies and agents must be licensed. To confirm the credibility of a company or agent, check with the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) to see if the company or agent is licensed. The OCI Web site (oci.wi.gov) has both a company and agent lookup feature that will allow you to see their license status and any administrative actions. OCI can be reached at 1-800-236-8517.
- Be careful when giving out personal information. A licensed insurance company should give you information about their plan up front without requiring any personal information like credit card numbers.
- Be suspicious of plans that seem very inexpensive and too good to be true; they usually are.
- Be aware that some products marketed like insurance may not be insurance at all. Many companies that promise cheap insurance are actually selling "discount plans." A discount plan is not insurance, but a plan where you pay a membership or enrollment fee up front to obtain access to networks of health care providers who have agreed to offer discounts for their services. Discount plans are not regulated by OCI.
- Make sure a Web site is secure before transmitting confidential information over the Internet. If you are about to send credit card or personal information, you can be sure your browser is secure if: you see the Web site address location beginning with https:// instead of the usual http:// and the security symbol in the bottom right-hand or left-hand corner of your browser displays the proper security symbol, such as an unbroken key or a closed lock.
- Be wary of scams. Scam artists may try to convince you to change coverage quickly without giving you the opportunity to do adequate research.
- Keep detailed records. Get all rate quotes and key information in writing for your file. Also, once you decide to purchase online, keep a copy of all paperwork you complete and sign, as well as any correspondence, special offers and payment receipts. Remember that auto and homeowner's insurance companies are able to adjust the quoted premium within the first 60 days of your policy.
- You should receive a copynot a photocopyof your new policy within 60 days of purchase. If you do not receive a copy, contact the insurance company immediately. Some insurers may offer electronic delivery of your policy. You must consent to receive your policy electronically.
- Take advantage of "free-look" periods. Health and life insurance policies usually include a 10- or 30-day free-look period. This means that you can return the policy within the free-look time and get all your premium back.
State of Wisconsin
Office of the Commissioner of Insurance
P.O. Box 7873
Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7873
OCI's Web Page
Telephone Message System
(608) 266-3585 (Madison)
1-800-236-8517 (Outside Madison)
Deaf, hearing, or speech impaired callers may
reach OCI through the WI TRS