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RICHMOND – Many investors rely on financial advisors to help them reach their financial goals. When an investment advisor or stockbroker leaves their position with a firm, however, their clients may have questions about what may happen with their investment accounts.

The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division) encourages Virginians to know ahead of time what to expect if their investment advisor or stockbroker leaves their employer. In the event this occurs, investors are encouraged to find out why they left and understand what will happen to their investment account.

Departures may be voluntary such as job changes, retirement or a move to another city. Or they could be involuntary – such as a termination or health issues. In either case, it’s important to know how a financial service professional’s firm will handle their departure, how your account will be serviced, and what information the firm will provide regarding the departing employee. The answers to these questions may vary from firm to firm.

“Don’t be taken by surprise if your investment professional leaves their firm or the financial services industry,” said Director Ron Thomas. “Know in advance what to expect. Ask questions and understand your options before determining what to do with your investment account.”

Some common questions that Virginians may ask include the following:

  • Will I be notified if my stockbroker or investment advisor leaves the firm or leaves the financial industry completely? If so, how and when will I be notified?
  • How can I find out why they left the firm?
  • How will my account be serviced if my stockbroker or investment advisor leaves?
  • Will I be assigned a new broker or advisor, or will my account be assigned “to the house” – a general account at the firm without an assigned individual managing the account?
  • Will I receive the same services I previously received with my broker or advisor?
  • Will the firm continue to collect the same fees from me? Keep in mind that broker-dealers and investment advisers have a responsibility to ensure that the services they charge you for are actually provided.
  • To whom can I direct questions or trade instructions?
  • What are my options regarding my account? For example, should I retain assets at the existing firm, or may I transfer assets to another firm?
  • Can I get contact information for my departing broker? Firms may have policies regarding whether a departing stockbroker or investment advisor can communicate with you or solicit you to transfer your account to another firm.

If you work with a specific advisor, broker or team, you should receive notice from their firm if they will no longer be servicing your account. If you receive such a notice, consider following up immediately to find out why. Also ask questions to understand the situation before your account is reassigned or you decide to transfer your account elsewhere.

For additional information, contact the Division at 804-371-9051 or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945 or email SRF_General@scc.virginia.gov. The North American Securities Administrators Association provides information about Reassigned Investor Accounts.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) has received approval of a federal waiver to establish the Commonwealth Health Reinsurance Program (CHRP). The SCC will be responsible for implementing and operating that program, which is scheduled to begin January 1, 2023.

The SCC was directed under Virginia Code Section §38.2-6606 to submit an application for a State Innovation Waiver to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and to the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury Department) to establish the CHRP. Under the waiver, insurance carriers are reimbursed a percentage of the claims of covered individuals with high annual costs.

House Bill 2332 was passed in the 2021 Special Session I of the Virginia General Assembly and signed into law on March 31, 2021, creating the CHRP and directing the SCC to seek the waiver application. The SCC submitted an application for the waiver to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of HHS, and the Treasury Department on December 30, 2021. The approval is for an initial period of up to five years.

Information about the CHRP is available on the SCC website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Reinsurance-Waiver

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The Internet, social media and messaging apps offer many useful features for daily life, but also new opportunities for investment scams. While social media platforms, online dating websites and dating apps may be good ways to meet people, Virginia residents should be wary if someone uses an online friendship or romance to solicit an investment or offer investment opportunities.

Individuals trying to promote investment scams may pose as potential romantic partners or possible new friends in an attempt to lure unsuspecting individuals into fraudulent investment schemes. These scammers may set online traps as well as use technology and social media platforms to profile targets. They may spend time getting to know their target and use flattery to try to win them over before introducing an investment opportunity.

The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division) encourages Virginians to be skeptical of investments offered by a new and unfamiliar online contact or friend request, and to do their homework before considering any investment.

“Don’t let your heart rule your head when making financial decisions,” said Director Ron Thomas. “The virtual world can make it easy for scammers to pretend to be someone who they are not. Whether online, by phone or in person, be leery of unsolicited investment offers and never share financial information with a stranger. Understand the risks and benefits of any investment and do not invest more than you can afford to lose.”

Thomas offers the following tips:

  1. Independently verify who is offering an investment and the details of an offer, as well as verify any app or website to which a stranger may direct you. Be wary of individuals who are unwilling to meet face-to-face or via clear video feed, or who attempt to pressure you into making an investment.

    Keep in mind that individuals offering investments are obligated to disclose all material facts regarding an investment, and they must disclose the risks associated with each product. Bad actors will often minimize or conceal risks of an investment and, instead, tout their alleged profits and payouts.
     
  2. Make sure any investment and the person offering it are properly registered. In Virginia, contact the Division at 804-371-9051 or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945, or email SRF_General@scc.virginia.gov. Investors can also search the federal Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website or visit the BrokerCheck platform offered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
     
  3. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be swayed by flattery or the promise of friendship or romance, or be enticed by claims of safe, lucrative or guaranteed returns with little or no risk. These representations are often a red flag for fraud, since all investments carry some degree of risk.

For more information, visit the Division’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Consumer-Investments or the NASAA website at nasaa.org.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Mandatory 10-digit dialing (3-digit area code + the 7-digit telephone number) begins May 14, 2022 for Virginians living in the 540 area code region. Local calls made with just seven digits will not be connected. This is the second step in a June 2020 relief plan approved by the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to phase in the new 826 area code. Permissive 10-digit dialing for the 540 area code region began November 13, 2021.

The 540 area code encompasses the northwestern and southwestern portions of Virginia; some of the larger cities include Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Culpeper, Fredericksburg, Front Royal, Harrisonburg, Radford, Roanoke, Salem, Staunton, Waynesboro and Winchester.

In the coming months, the inventory of available phone numbers with "540" as the area code is expected to run out. The SCC approved an overlay, which is the addition of another area code (826) to the same geographic region served by an existing area code (540). Beginning June 14, 2022, new telephone lines or services may be assigned numbers using the new 826 area code.

The good news: residents and businesses that already have phone numbers will get to keep them. No one’s 540 phone number will change.

Alarm, security, and elevator services and equipment currently located in the 540 area code and programmed to dial only seven digits must be updated or reprogrammed to dial the area code + telephone number for all calls in the 540 area code.

For more information on this topic, visit: scc.virginia.gov/pages/540-Area-Code-Exhaust-Relief.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is pleased to announce its release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the State-Based Exchange Technology Platform (SBE Platform) and Consumer Assistance Center (CAC) on eVA, Virginia’s central procurement system. This RFP is the next step for the Health Benefit Exchange (HBE) division of the SCC to successfully transition from HealthCare.gov to a fully autonomous, Virginia-based health insurance exchange.

Vendor proposals, which should incorporate the SBE Platform and CAC, are due May 2. The SCC expects to award the contract in mid- to late-summer of 2022.

HBE’s primary purpose is to promote a transparent and competitive marketplace, promote consumer choice and education, assist individuals with access to programs, premium assistance tax credits, cost sharing reductions, support the continuity of coverage, and reduce the number of uninsured.

The Health Benefit Exchange will:

  • provide eligibility, enrollment, and tailored customer service closer to Virginia citizens;
  • more closely coordinate with other state agencies and programs to increase the likelihood that individuals maintain health care coverage; and
  • directly handle consumer complaints and address consumer issues to design and optimize the consumer shopping experience.

Open Enrollment for plan year 2023 will begin on November 1, 2022. Virginia marketplace consumers will continue to shop for health plans on HealthCare.gov until November 1, 2023. The SCC anticipates that the full transition to its own state-based platform will be completed by the fall of 2023, in time for Open Enrollment for health plans that begin coverage January 1, 2024.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Mandatory 10-digit dialing (3-digit area code + the 7-digit telephone number) begins April 9, 2022 for Virginians living in the 757 area code region. Local calls made with just seven digits will not be connected. This is the second step in a February 2020 relief plan approved by the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to phase in the new 948 area code. Permissive 10-digit dialing for the 757 area code region began September 11, 2021.

The 757 area code encompasses the vast majority of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area including Williamsburg, Franklin and Suffolk in the west, and Virginia Beach, Norfolk and the Eastern Shore to the east.

In the coming months, the inventory of available phone numbers with "757" as the area code is expected to run out. The SCC approved an overlay, which is the addition of another area code (948) to the same geographic region served by an existing area code (757). Beginning May 9, 2022, new telephone lines or services may be assigned numbers using the new 948 area code.

The good news: residents and businesses that already have phone numbers will get to keep them. No one’s 757 phone number will change.

Alarm, security, and elevator services and equipment currently located in the 757 area code and programmed to dial only seven digits must be updated or reprogrammed to dial the area code + telephone number for all calls in the 757 area code.

For more information on this topic, see: scc.virginia.gov/pages/757-Area-Code-Exhaust-Relief-FAQ.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND — April is National Safe Digging Month, and the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Utility and Railroad Safety (URS) reminds all Virginians to Know What’s Below and Dig with C.A.R.E. to help keep Virginia’s underground utility infrastructure damage-free and our communities, business districts and environment safe.

The steps to safe digging in Virginia are:

  • Contact Virginia 811 before you dig.
  • Allow the required time for marking the utilities.
  • Respect and protect the marks.
  • Excavate carefully.
     

Whether you’re a professional contractor, do-it-yourselfer or homeowner, you have an important role in preventing damage to underground utilities. No matter how big or small your project is, contacting the Virginia 811 Notification Center to request the marking of your underground utility lines before you dig will help avoid physical injury, property damage, costly repairs and service interruptions.

Contact Virginia 811 by going online at www.va811.com. You may also call 811 or 1-800-552-7001 Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding legal state and national holidays. Emergency notification service is available 24/7, 365 days a year.

For more information about safe digging and demolition, contact URS at 804-371-9980 or visit the SCC Damage Prevention page at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Damage-Prevention.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The arrival of spring can usher in tornadoes, strong winds, hailstorms, flash floods, lightning and other extreme weather. Advance preparation is the key to protecting yourself, your loved ones and your property – both physically and financially.

The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) encourages Virginians to plan now for potentially extreme spring weather. “Assess your risk and make sure you have the insurance coverage you need if severe weather causes damage to your home, business, vehicles or other property,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “If you have questions, contact the Bureau of Insurance or your insurance agent or company.”

When planning ahead to protect your interests, the Bureau encourages Virginians to consider the following:

  • Review your insurance policy and contact your insurance company if you have any questions about your coverage.
  • Create a detailed inventory of your belongings. Include photos and receipts of your property if you have them. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) free home inventory app can facilitate this process. You can use the Inventory Checklist as a guide. Store your home inventory checklist and insurance policy information in a secure, waterproof location.
  • Most homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover losses due to flooding. Talk with your insurance agent about flood insurance or visit the National Flood Insurance Program website. To learn more, contact your insurance agent or the NFIP at 1-888-379-9531 or visit floodsmart.gov.

Automobile other-than-collision insurance coverage, sometimes called "comprehensive" insurance coverage, helps pay to repair or replace vehicles if they are stolen or damaged by such things as fire, water, wind, hail, vandalism, glass breakage, falling objects or contact with an animal.

In the event that a loss occurs at a later date, the Bureau recommends that Virginians keep several steps in mind:

  • Contact your insurance company or agent as soon as possible.
  • Take photos of your damaged property once it is safe to do so.
  • Save the receipts of any emergency repairs that are needed to prevent your property from becoming further damaged.
  • If you feel you are treated unfairly, contact the Bureau of Insurance Property & Casualty Consumer Services team at 804-371-9185 or file a complaint online.

The Bureau offers free consumer guides for homeowners and commercial property owners with information about what to do when a disaster strikes. These and many other consumer insurance guides are available on the Bureau’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance.

The Bureau’s specially trained staff can assist consumers with their insurance-related questions and concerns. To learn more, contact the Consumer Services Section of the Bureau’s Property and Casualty Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at 804-371-9185. For additional emergency preparedness information relating to various types of disasters and hazards, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management website at vaemergency.gov.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) reminds Virginians that National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) begins Sunday. Each year, NCPW helps people understand their consumer right and make smart choices with their finances. Held March 6-12 this year, NCPW combines the efforts of the Federal Trade Commission and other federal, state, and local agencies and organizations – including the SCC – to promote resources for well-informed consumer decisions.

The SCC is a one-stop shop for many such resources. Consumers may find information and assistance in areas including insurance companies and agents, state-chartered financial institutions, investment firms and their representatives, retail franchises and investor-owned utilities providing electric, natural gas, water, and sewer, along with landline telecommunications services.

The SCC also offers many consumer guides and financial information resources on topics such as mortgage loans and deposit account information, purchasing insurance, and more. Specially trained staff can assist Virginians with information to help them make informed choices and, in some circumstances, to address complaints against regulated entities for things like an improperly denied insurance claim, errant charges on a loan transaction or securities offering, or an inaccurate utility bill.

The SCC encourages consumers to shop around and compare prices and terms; thoroughly evaluate any offer; keep written records of all transactions; find products and services that suit their particular needs; review statements and bills regularly; learn to spot scams, and verify that an individual or company is properly licensed or registered.

If a problem arises, the SCC urges consumers to try to resolve it with the regulated individual or company first. If they need further help, consumers can contact the appropriate SCC division. Information about the complaint process along with related forms are available from the Consumers section of the SCC website at scc.virginia.gov. To contact the SCC by phone, call toll-free at 1-800-552-7945 or in Richmond, call:

  • Bureau of Insurance – 804-371-9741
  • Bureau of Financial Institutions – 804-371-9657
  • Division of Securities and Retail Franchising – 804-371-9051
  • Division of Public Utility Regulation – 804-371-9611
  • Office of the Clerk – 804-371-9733
  • Division of Information Resources – 804-371-9141

In the event the SCC does not have regulatory authority over a particular company, individual, product or transaction, its staff will assist consumers whenever possible by referring them to the appropriate local, state or federal authority for assistance. These authorities may include the Office of the Attorney General, a local consumer protection office, law enforcement agencies, Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission (which consumers can also contact directly through its toll-free helpline at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357)).

To learn more about National Consumer Protection Week, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Investment scams involving cryptocurrencies, promissory notes, online investment offers and schemes involving Self-Directed Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) may be among the top investor threats Americans face during 2022, according to a recent survey of securities regulators.

The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division) encourages Virginians to do their homework any time they plan to invest. Understanding the benefits and risks of any investment is important.

“Let caution be your guide, especially when investing in cryptocurrency and digital assets, which can be volatile and headline the list of investor threats for the new year,” said Director Ron Thomas. “Don’t be lured by thoughts of easy money or stories of ‘crypto millionaires,’ and never invest more than you can afford to lose.”

The list Thomas references is a list of the top 2022 investor threats, as determined by a survey of state and provincial securities regulators conducted by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which the SCC is a member. The annual survey is designed to identify the products, practices or schemes that may present challenges or risks for investors.

Thomas offers the following tips to identify and avoid scams:

  1. Independently verify who is offering an investment and details of an offer. Scammers often spoof websites and rely on fake social media accounts to obscure their identities. To spot fake accounts, look closely at their content, dates of inception and quality of engagement. Pay careful attention to domain names and learn more about how to protect your online accounts.
  2. Beware of fake client reviews. Scammers often reference or publish positive, yet bogus, testimonials purportedly drafted by satisfied customers. These testimonials create the appearance the promoter is legitimate and has demonstrated solid performance in the past, but they are sometimes drafted by the scammer, not a satisfied customer. Learn how to protect yourself with NASAA’s Informed Investor Advisory on social media, online trading and investing.
  3. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be enticed by promises of safe, lucrative, guaranteed returns with little or no risk and over relatively short terms – sometimes measured in hours or days instead of months or years. These representations are often a red flag for fraud, since all investments carry some degree of risk.

Individuals offering investments are obligated to truthfully disclose all material facts, and they must disclose the risks associated with each product. On the other hand, bad actors will often minimize or conceal risks and, instead, tout profits and payouts.

Thomas encourages Virginians to understand any investment before turning over their hard-earned money. To learn more about whether investments and the people offering them are properly registered, Virginians can contact the Division at 804-371-9051 or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945 or email SRF_General@scc.virginia.gov. They can also search the federal Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website or visit the BrokerCheck platform offered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority or FINRA.

For more information, visit the Division’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Consumer-Investments or the NASAA website at nasaa.org.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

 

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