COVID-19 Procedures: All business with the Commission should be through electronic filing systems, email, or by telephone. For public health safety, in-person visits to SCC offices are suspended. Filings or other deliveries are permitted by drop off at main entrance. On-site staff is minimal and processing of such deliveries may be delayed.
Information Resources Division: 804-371-9141 firstname.lastname@example.org
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JUL 07, 2020
“Using secure technology, the service enables consumers to obtain money that is rightfully theirs via life insurance and annuity contracts,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White, who noted the service has helped recover more than $878.8 million nationwide.
If you believe you are a beneficiary, or you are the executor or legal representative of a deceased person, you may use the free service by submitting a search request form and following these steps:
- Gather as much information about the deceased person as possible, including his or her full name (along with maiden name, if applicable), Social Security number, date of birth, state where the policy was purchased, insurance company name, and the person or organization who sold the policy.
- Obtain a copy of the individual’s death certificate.
- Visit the SCC Bureau of Insurance website (https://www.scc.virginia.gov/pages/Tips,-Guides-Publications) and click on “Life Insurance” or the NAIC website (https://eapps.naic.org/life-policy-locator/#/welcome) and complete as many fields as possible.
Requests made through the service are encrypted and secured to maintain confidentiality. Once a request is submitted, the NAIC will then ask participating companies to search their records using the information provided. If there is a match, a company will typically respond to the person who submitted the request within 90 business days, assuming the person submitting the request is the designated beneficiary or is authorized to receive information.
When a life insurance company knows that a policyholder has died but cannot locate the beneficiaries of the policy, the company – under Virginia law – must turn over the policy’s benefits to the state’s unclaimed property office if those benefits are not claimed after a certain number of years. If you know the state in which a life insurance policy was written, check with that state’s insurance department or the office that handles unclaimed property.
To avoid lost policies, the Bureau of Insurance encourages Virginians to:
- Keep beneficiary information up-to-date.
- Alert beneficiaries of the policy and provide them with the names of the servicing agent and the insurance company that issued the policy.
- Place a current copy of the life insurance policy in a safe and accessible place with wills and estate documents, and ask the insurance company for an annual policy statement if one is not provided.
For questions or additional information about the policy locator and other life and health insurance matters, contact the Consumer Services Section of the Virginia Bureau of Insurance Life and Health Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or visit www.scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance.
JUN 23, 2020
RICHMOND – The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant market volatility during the past several months, leaving many individuals looking for safe places to put their hard-earned money and still earn a return. The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division) urges Virginians to use caution when considering investments in exempt securities offerings, also known as private placements.
A private placement is a security offering that is not required by law to be fully registered with federal or state securities regulators. Popular especially with start-up companies, private placements allow companies to sell stocks, bonds or other securities to investors without completing the rigorous disclosures necessary in a registered – or public – offering. Selling securities through private placements is generally easier, quicker and less expensive for the issuer than conducting a registered securities offering. Private placements often are riskier than registered securities offerings and may provide only limited opportunities for investors to resell them, so investors could have to hold onto them for longer periods of time.
“People may try to capitalize on headlines to prey on unsuspecting consumers,” said Division Director Ron Thomas. “Don’t assume that just because someone claims to offer a security with a valid exemption from registration that this is actually true. Keep in mind that even when a private security offering is legitimate, it may not be right for you. As with any investment, do your homework and thoroughly understand the risks and benefits,” he said.
Businesses raising capital through private placement offerings may have limited operating histories and modest revenues compared to public companies. These offerings are not reviewed by regulators and the people selling them are not required to provide as much information to investors as public companies are required to provide under securities laws. As such, investing in private placement offerings may be more appropriate for the sophisticated investor and less suitable for less experienced investors. Regardless of your level of investment experience, the SCC urges investors contemplating private placement offerings to use caution.
The most recent enforcement statistics collected by the North American Securities Administrators Association, of which the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising is a member, identified private placement offerings as one of the most frequent sources of enforcement actions by state securities regulators.
Thomas urges Virginians to protect themselves financially when considering any investment opportunity by doing the following:
- Carefully review and understand all documents associated with the investment.
- Ask for information about the company, its business model and its executives.
- Be wary of “unique” investment offers or high-pressure sales tactics.
- Verify whether the person offering the investment is properly licensed or registered, as well as whether they have any disciplinary history.
Virginians can do this by contacting the Division of Securities and Retail Franchising in Richmond at 804-371-9051 or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945. For more information, visit the Division’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/pages/Securities-Retail- Franchising or visit the North American Securities Administrators website at www.nasaa.org/22284/informed-investor-alert-private-placement-offerings/.
JUN 15, 2020
RICHMOND – In conjunction with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division) reminds Virginians that extended isolation and loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic may create a perfect storm for financial exploitation of senior citizens.
Each year, senior citizens lose billions of dollars to financial fraud, with the loss to individual victims averaging tens of thousands of dollars. “Social isolation has long been a leading factor contributing to the financial exploitation of older investors,” said Division Director Ron Thomas. “Social distancing and the unprecedented quarantines designed to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus have greatly increased social isolation for many seniors, making them more vulnerable to financial exploitation. Perpetrators may be strangers, family members, trusted friends and financial professionals or others.”Financial abuse can happen any time, but perpetrators often strike when senior citizens are most vulnerable, such as during a health crisis or after the death of a loved one. Scammers often gather personal details from obituaries and social media posts and use this information to target their victims. Some perpetrators even will exploit established relationships within seniors’ social and support groups to become more involved in their lives.
Thomas encourages Virginians to be aware of the following warning signs indicative of senior financial abuse:
- Surrendering control of finances to a new or overly protective friend or caregiver
- Fear of or sudden change in feelings toward friends or family members
- A lack of knowledge about their financial status or reluctance to discuss financial matters
- Sudden or unexplained changes in spending habits, a will, trust or beneficiary designations
- Unexplained financial activities, such as checks made out to cash, unusual loans or disappearance of assets, valuables or securities
- Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents
In-person visits may not yet be possible due to the pandemic. However, to reduce the likelihood of isolation and financial exploitation, Thomas urges Virginians to stay in touch with older family members, friends and neighbors by phone, text, email, video calls or other means. “Remind seniors that scammers follow the headlines and may try to exploit the pandemic. Make them aware of the red flags of fraud, which are often the same regardless of the type of scam,” he said.
Thomas asks Virginians who suspect possible senior financial exploitation to contact the Division of Securities and Retail Franchising at 804-371-9051 in Richmond or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945. For more information, visit the Division’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/pages/Securities-Retail-Franchising or the North American Securities Administrators Association’s website at www.nasaa.org/1723/senior-investor-resource-center/.
Contact: Katha Treanor (804) 371-9141
MAY 26, 2020
RICHMOND – Did you know that just an inch of floodwater can cause more than $25,000 in property damage? The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) encourages all Virginians to review their insurance policies now to ensure they are covered in the event of a disaster.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, which can bring high winds and torrential rains to areas even hundreds of miles from the coast.
“Knowing the ins and outs of your coverage could save you untold stress down the road,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “There’s typically a 30-day waiting period between the time you buy flood insurance and the time it takes effect, so be sure to talk with your insurance agent sooner rather than later.”
Whether you have commercial, auto, flood, or homeowners insurance, insurers usually will not adjust coverage once a hurricane or tropical storm is forecast. Additionally, some homeowners insurance policies may have separate hurricane or wind deductibles which they would have to pay before insurance coverage begins.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) partners with dozens of private insurance companies that offer flood insurance policies https://www.floodsmart.gov/flood-insurance/providers. Although private insurers may offer other flood policies outside the NFIP in some circumstances, you should check with your insurance agent about any coverage issues and availability of a private flood insurance policy before you buy. In either case, ask whether your flood policy provides coverage for your personal property.
When considering your insurance needs, the Bureau offers several general recommendations to prepare for an insurable event:
- Anticipate complications stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, including emergency shelter shut-downs, travel restrictions, face shield requirements, a scarcity of emergency supplies, social distancing recommendations, and more.
- You should prepare a complete inventory of your personal property, including photographs, videos, and serial numbers, stored in a safe place. The “myHOME Scr.APP.book” program – a free smartphone app from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners – is a great place to start.
- Write down your insurance company’s name along with all your insurance policies (homeowners, auto, etc.) to keep with your home inventory. You will need their policy and phone numbers in case you have questions or need to file a claim.
- If your property is damaged by a hurricane, get in touch with your insurance agent or company immediately and make any necessary emergency repairs to prevent further damage. Be sure to keep a list of all damage, along with photographs, notes, and related receipts, if possible.
For more information on what to do in the event of disaster, visit https://scc.virginia.gov/pages/Disaster-Readiness.
You can also get in touch with the Bureau’s specially trained staff for help with insurance-related questions and concerns:
- Consumer Services Section of the Bureau’s Property and Casualty Division (tollfree) 1-877-310-6560, or in Richmond at 804-371-9185.
- Bureau of Insurance mailing address – P.O. Box 1157, Richmond, Virginia 23218.
- Online at https://www.scc.virginia.gov/pages/Bureau-of-Insurance.
For additional emergency preparedness information relating to hurricanes and other types of disasters and hazards, visit www.vaemergency.gov.
MAY 19, 2020
RICHMOND – Beginning June 1, 2020, individuals interested in taking insurance agent and public adjuster licensing examinations in Virginia will be able to do so remotely. The State Corporation Commission’s Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) offers this new online option to address, in part, the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Exams also will continue to be administered at traditional brick and mortar sites throughout Virginia.
“In addition to promoting the safety of aspiring insurance professionals who take these licensing exams, the new online option reflects the Bureau’s commitment to improving efficiency, innovation and customer service by enhancing exam development, access and delivery capabilities,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White.
Effective June 1, 2020, Prometric will administer insurance and public adjuster licensing examinations in Virginia. In addition to remote testing, Prometric will operate testing centers in Bristol, Chesapeake, Falls Church, Lynchburg, Richmond and Roanoke. Prometric also will deliver exams at additional test centers elsewhere throughout the Commonwealth as those sites become available.
The online testing represents just one of many enhancements the Bureau is making to its insurance credentialing programs. “The remote proctoring capabilities offered by Prometric’s ProProctor™ remote assessment platform will expand access to insurance licensing exams for Virginians by allowing candidates to test anywhere, and with greatly expanded hours,” White said.
Insurance license candidates can schedule their exam by visiting www.prometric.com/virginia/insurance or by calling 1-866-891-6396. Candidates who prefer to take the exams at a test center are encouraged to confirm their appointment with that center in advance.
Individuals who need to take an insurance agent or public adjuster licensing exam before June 1, 2020, can schedule an appointment with the Bureau’s current test partner, Pearson VUE, at https://home.pearsonvue.com/va/insurance.
For more information, contact the Agent Licensing Section of the Bureau’s Agent Regulation Division at 804-371-9631 or AgentLicensing@scc.virginia.gov. Or visit the Bureau’s website at https://scc.virginia.gov/pages/Bureau-of-Insurance and Prometric’s website at www.prometric.com/virginia/insurance.
Contact: Katha Treanor (804) 371-9141
MAY 12, 2020
RICHMOND – As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to take a financial toll on individuals and the economy, the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division) urges Virginians to do their homework before making any investment.
Securities regulators are stepping up efforts to protect investors during this pandemic. The Division has joined an international enforcement task force of state and other securities regulators recently organized by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA). The focus is to protect investors from scammers seeking to capitalize on COVID-19 fears.
"Don’t let panic, fear and uncertainty guide your investment decisions. Rely on research rather than personal feelings,” said Ron Thomas, Division director. “We are pleased to join forces with our colleagues in NASAA’s COVID-19 Enforcement Task Force and are committed to protecting Virginians from opportunists seeking to profit from this crisis.”
The Division is among the many members of NASAA, which is comprised of state and provincial securities regulators in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The COVID-19 task force was formed to identify and stop potential threats to investors stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Among other things, task force members will identify websites and social media posts that may offer or promote unregistered or fraudulent investments related to COVID-19.
Investment scams involving COVID-19 likely will include telltale signs similar to other fraudulent investments. Thomas urges Virginians to ask the following questions before making any investment:
- Does the investment offer or promise a guaranteed high return with little or no risk? All investments carry risk that you may lose some or all of your money. No one can guarantee an investment return.
- Is there a sense of urgency or limited availability of detailed information about the investment? If someone offers you a “can’t miss” investment opportunity and pressures you to invest right now, don’t be afraid to walk away.
- Is the person or company offering the investment - and the investment itself - properly licensed or registered? In Virginia, you can find out by contacting the Division of Securities and Retail Franchising in Richmond at 804-371-9051 or toll-free (in Virginia) at 1-800-552-7945 or online at scc.virginia.gov.
“Before making any investment, research the investment and the person or company offering it and know where your money is going, how it will be used and how you can get it back. Always verify that the investment and the person offering it are registered by the appropriate securities regulator,” Thomas said.
Thomas encourages investors to report any suspected fraudulent COVID-19 or other investment opportunities. “Reporting suspicious COVID-19 related investment offers is important to help us investigate fraudulent activities and protect our citizens from falling victim to financial fraud in these unprecedented times,” he said. Virginians who see – or suspect they have fallen victim to – COVID-19-related or other investment scams, can contact the Division of Securities and Retail Franchising. For more information, investors also may visit the NASAA website.
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Contact: Katha Treanor (804) 371-9141
MAR 09, 2020
RICHMOND — When it comes to floods, coastal areas are not the only places at risk. During Virginia Flood Awareness Week – March 8-14, 2020 – the State Corporation Commission (SCC) joins other local and state agencies in reminding Virginians to Know Your Risk. Protect Your Property. Get Flood Insurance.
Hurricanes and heavy rains are not the only culprits when it comes to flooding. Areas that experience other natural disasters, such as severe winter storms and wildfires, are equally vulnerable. Ice dams and snowmelt can cause flash floods. Lack of vegetation caused by wildfires can cause mudflows and floods.
“Floods can happen anywhere and anytime,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “All it takes is a few inches of water to cause major damage to your home and its contents.”
Homeowners insurance policies issued in Virginia typically do not provide coverage for damage to your home and property due to floods. However, the federal government does sell insurance for direct flood and flood-related damage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This federally-backed flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters and business owners, and offers separate coverage for structures and contents. Potential buyers should think about their flood insurance needs in advance as there is generally a 30-day waiting period before a new flood insurance policy takes effect.
No matter where you live, White encourages Virginians to assess their flood risk and protect themselves financially before the waters start to rise. “Without understanding your risk and knowing your insurance options, you might find yourself inadequately covered when you need coverage the most. Flood insurance is one of the best ways you can protect yourself financially against a flood, but the time to plan is now,” he said.
For more information about flood insurance, contact your insurance agent or the NFIP at 1-800-427-4661, or visit www.floodsmart.gov. Since some private insurers also offer their own flood policies, you can check with your insurance agent about the availability of a private flood insurance policy. In either case, ask whether your flood policy provides coverage for your personal property.
Unlike homeowners insurance, auto insurance generally covers damage to a vehicle caused by flooding. However, the policyholder must have other-than-collision (also known as comprehensive) coverage on their vehicle. This coverage pays for damage to a vehicle from such things as fire, water, hail, vandalism, glass breakage, wind and falling objects.
The Bureau encourages Virginians to take steps now to protect their homes and property against floods and other disasters. Evaluate your risk; review your insurance coverage; create a home inventory of your belongings and store it with your insurance policies and other important documents in a safe place. To prepare for floods, elevate electrical and HVAC systems; seal foundation cracks; install drain plugs, sump pumps or backflow water valves; dry-proof your property with coatings and sealants, and grade your lawn away from your home.
Among the many publications offered by the SCC’s Bureau of Insurance are consumer guides regarding homeowners and auto insurance and disaster-related property insurance claims. For copies of the guides or answers to your insurance questions, contact the Bureau of Insurance Property and Casualty Consumer Services Section by calling (804) 371-9185 in Richmond or toll-free at 1-877-310-6560. Copies of the consumer insurance guides are also available on the Bureau’s website.
For more information about floods and flood-related disasters, visit the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation website at https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/dam-safety-and-floodplains/floodawareness or the Virginia Department of Emergency Management website at https://www.vaemergency.gov/.
Contact: Katha Treanor (804) 371-9141
MAR 06, 2020
RICHMOND — Scammers often rely on headlines to lure unsuspecting investors into bogus investment offers. As daily news reports continue to track the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the State Corporation Commission (SCC) reminds Virginians to beware of unscrupulous individuals seeking to capitalize on fear and uncertainty surrounding these reports.
“Think twice before considering ‘research reports’ or promotions claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result,” said Ron Thomas, director of the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising. These promotions can come in the form of emails, texts, cold calls, social media posts or other online promotions.
“Fraudsters are opportunistic and exploit news events for their own financial gain. They peddle misinformation to give their promotions an air of legitimacy and immediacy,” Thomas said. “Before investing, understand the investment, the person or company offering it, where your money is going, how it will be used, and how you can get it back. Always verify that the salesperson and the security are registered by the appropriate securities regulator.”
Thomas also cautions Virginians to be on the lookout for scam artists trying to use recent market volatility and the coronavirus outbreak to scare investors into so-called “safer, guaranteed investments.” “Don’t make investment decisions based on panic or fear. If you have questions, contact a financial professional or your state securities regulator,” he said.
“When it comes to investing, rely on research rather than personal feelings,” Thomas said. He urges potential investors to ask the following questions:
- Does the investment promise guaranteed high returns with little or no risk? Remember: all investments carry risk that you may potentially lose some or all your money. No one can guarantee an investment return.
- Is there a sense of urgency or limited availability surrounding the investment? If someone offers you a “can’t miss” investment opportunity and puts you on the spot to complete the transaction, don’t be afraid to walk away.
- Are the person or the company offering the investment and the investment itself properly licensed or registered? In Virginia, you can find out by contacting the SCC Division of Securities and Retail Franchising at 804-371-9051 in Richmond or toll-free (in Virginia) at 1-800-552-7945 or by visiting its website.
For more information, visit the North American Securities Administrators Association’s website.
Contact: Katha Treanor (804) 371-9141
FEB 28, 2020
RICHMOND — In today’s complex marketplace, knowledge is the key to helping you stretch your dollar and avoid unsuitable or fraudulent products and services. The State Corporation Commission (SCC) encourages Virginians to protect themselves financially and know where to turn for help – whether they are shopping for a mortgage or other loan, comparing insurance policies, investing, planning for retirement or reviewing their bank statement or utility bill.
In conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week – March 1-7, 2020 – the SCC reminds Virginians that it stands ready throughout the year to answer inquiries, handle complaints and provide information and assistance regarding industry sectors over which it has regulatory responsibility. Those sectors include insurance companies and agents, state-chartered financial institutions, investment firms and their representatives, retail franchises, and investor-owned utilities providing electric, natural gas, water, sewer and telecommunications services.
The SCC offers numerous consumer guides and other information on a variety of topics. Many of these are available on the SCC website at www.scc.virginia.gov. The SCC’s specially trained staff can assist Virginians in making informed choices and filing a complaint if they are not satisfied with the responses they receive from regulated businesses.
During 2019, in addition to fielding thousands of inquiries, the SCC’s regulatory divisions received more than 7,000 complaints involving regulated industries, resulting in more than $15 million in refunds, credits, and rescission or restitution payments to consumers.
Just a few of the many ways the SCC helps consumers include: facilitating payments by insurance companies for claims that were improperly denied; recovering monies improperly charged on loan transactions and securities offerings; ensuring that utilities provide reliable service and respond promptly to any customer billing issues, and reaching out to Virginians before and after disasters.
The SCC urges Virginians to thoroughly evaluate any offer; shop around and compare prices and terms; keep written records of all transactions; find products and services that suit your particular needs; and verify that an individual or company is licensed or registered with the SCC. If a problem arises, try to resolve it with the regulated individual or company first. If you are still not satisfied, you can contact the appropriate SCC division by phone, mail or email using the online complaint form.
The complaint process and forms are available by going to the SCC website at www.scc.virginia.gov and clicking on the appropriate division. To contact the SCC by phone, call toll-free (in Virginia) 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
- Division of Information Resources – (804) 371-9141
In the event the SCC does not have regulatory authority over a particular firm, individual, product or transaction, its staff will assist consumers by referring them to the appropriate local, state or federal authority for assistance. These may include the Attorney General’s office, local consumer protection office, Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission’s 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/features/national-consumer-protection-week.
Contact: Katha Treanor (804) 371-9141
FEB 24, 2020
RICHMOND — Bonds are part of many investors’ portfolios. They can be held as individual securities or through funds such as mutual funds.
Whether the bond is issued by a company, state or locality, one of the key considerations for bond investments is the rating given to a bond by a nationally recognized bond rating company. While these bond ratings can be useful when evaluating possible investments, the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising encourages Virginians to consider factors other than the rating when determining whether to invest in a particular bond or bond fund portfolio.
Companies, states, localities and the U.S. government issue bonds to raise money. When investing in a bond, you’re loaning a sum of money to the bond issuer for a specified period of time. In exchange, the issuer promises to make regular interest payments to you at a predetermined rate until the bond comes due, and then repay your principal upon maturity.
Although bonds are generally considered to carry less risk than stocks, they are not risk-free. Just as individuals have their own credit report and rating issued by credit bureaus, bond issuers are evaluated by their own set of ratings agencies to assess their financial health and creditworthiness. “Bond ratings can give you an indication of the riskiness of various kinds of debt and which bond issuers are most and least likely to fail to meet their obligations,” said Ron Thomas, director of the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising. He cautions investors, however, that: “Bond ratings aren't perfect and can't predict the financial health of a bond issuer or whether your investment will go up or down in value.”
Investors are encouraged to understand the basics of bond ratings before investing. Bonds are rated at the time they are issued and can be upgraded or downgraded before they mature. The rating affects the interest rate that companies and government agencies pay on their bonds and drive bond pricing. Typically, the higher a bond’s rating, the safer an investment it is. However, highly rated bonds may also offer lower interest rates than bonds with lower ratings.
As with any investment, Thomas encourages Virginians to protect themselves financially by defining their objectives when investing, balancing risk versus reward, researching details about an investment, understanding all costs associated with buying and selling that investment, and regularly monitoring your investments. “Use caution when considering higher yields offered by bonds with lower credit ratings. Remember: higher yield equals higher risk,” he said.
When buying individual bonds, Thomas recommends finding a firm and broker specializing in bonds and checking their credentials and disciplinary history. In Virginia, you can do this by contacting the SCC Division of Securities and Retail Franchising at 804-371-9051 or toll-free (in Virginia) at 1-800-552-7945 or visiting its website. To learn more, visit the North American Securities Administrators Association’s website.
Contact: Katha Treanor (804) 371-9141
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