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Ask DISB – Common Consumer Questions

Insurance

I was recently laid off from my job and lost health insurance provided by my employer. What can I do?
If you were covered under a group health plan that was sponsored by an employer with 20 or more workers, you are probably eligible for COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985). COBRA allows for a continuation of your health care coverage benefits for a limited time. Under your extended COBRA coverage, you must pay the entire premium, which includes the employer’s and employee’s portions.

If you were covered under a group health plan that was sponsored by an employer with less than 20 workers, you may also qualify for continuation of benefits.

You may qualify for HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) if you have been continuously covered under one plan or different plans for at least 18 months before you lost your job and have exhausted COBRA or continuation of benefits. The District of Columbia has some options available to you. Please contact the DC Department of Health at (202) 671-5000 for more details.
  
I am disabled and cannot work.  Are there any state or federal health insurance programs for which I qualify?
Yes. There are two programs under the Social Security Administration that may provide assistance if you are considered permanently disabled.
1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
2. Medicare
Please contact the Social Security Administration at 1(800) 772-1213. For the deaf or hard of hearing, call 1(800) 325-0778. You may visit its website at www.ssa.gov for more details.
  
I am buying a house and they mentioned PMI. What is PMI and do I need it?
PMI or Private Mortgage Insurance is an extra premium you may be required to pay at closing if your down payment is less than 20 percent of the value of the home. For example, usually the lender will forgo requiring you to pay PMI if your house is valued at $100,000 and your down payment is $20,000 or more. Some mortgage companies may require PMI coverage even if your down payment is more than 20 percent.
  
My daughter started a part-time job delivering pizzas to help defray college costs. She uses her own car to make the deliveries.  If her car is covered under my policy, does my personal auto policy cover the liability if she is in an accident while on the job?
Most personal auto policies will exclude coverage for the vehicle while it is being used for delivery or for business purposes. You may want to check with your agent to see if an endorsement is available to cover this type of activity. Also, the pizza company may have insurance to cover what your auto policy does not cover.
  
I took my car to have some minor repair work. While it was in the shop, I was notified that my car was in an accident when it was being road tested. Is this a charge against my insurance or the repair shop?
Usually, a personal auto policy would not cover liability for any person who road tests your vehicle. The dealership should have a garage policy in place that would cover any damage to your vehicle while it is being road tested. You can file a claim against the dealer’s garage policy for the damages.
  
I hit a deer with my car. Will my insurance policy cover this accident?
Most automobile policies provide two types of coverage: collision and comprehensive.  If you have comprehensive coverage, any accident with animals and the damage they cause to your vehicle are covered under the comprehensive section of your automobile policy less the deductible.
  
I went to visit a friend, parked my car in the garage and left my briefcase in the back of my car.  Later, I returned to my vehicle to find that my briefcase was gone.  What should I do?
Generally, automobile insurance policies do not cover theft of personal items left in a car, which were not a permanent part of the vehicle when originally purchased from the dealer. However, most homeowners’ or renters’ policies may provide coverage for this type of incident. But most homeowners’ policies exclude coverage when there is no visible forced entry.
  
What does “Free Look Period” mean?
Free look period allows you no less than 10 days from the date that a life insurance policy is delivered to you for your review and evaluation. However, a policy sold by mail order must provide a 30-day review period. If you decide to return the policy, the insurance company must give you a refund of any premium paid, including any policy fees or charges.
  
What is a pre-existing condition?
A pre-existing condition is any health condition you may have had prior to the effective date of your health policy, which may affect your coverage.
  
Does the law require all employers to offer health insurance?
No. Health insurance is not required by law.
  
What is an HMO? What is a PPO?
An HMO is a Health Maintenance Organization, which requires you to select a primary care doctor who helps you manage your health care needs.

A PPO is a Preferred Provider Organization, which allows you to select any doctor within the network at the time of service without having to first identify a specific primary care provider. It allows for greater freedom of choice.   

Do accidents that are not your fault cause your policy to go up?
District of Columbia law § 31-2406(a)(5) states, “No insurer authorized to sell motor vehicle insurance in the District shall increase the rates charged an insured on account of an accident unless it is first determined that the accident was caused by the fault of the insured.”  As such, an insurer would not be allowed to use an accident where their insured was not at fault to increase the insured’s rates.  This code section would not apply to someone purchasing a new policy, but underwriting usually involves multiple criteria and insurers charge different rates for the same coverage (see sample DC automobile insurance rates from various insurers here), so it is difficult to say what may cause a quote from a new insurer to vary from the rate an insured is currently paying to its current company.  It is always a good idea to regularly compare rates for insurance.

Or do different auto insurance companies use different criteria when deciding what rate to give?
Yes, companies selling auto insurance do use different criteria in DC.  The Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking does have some requirements to generally prevent unfair discrimination.  For example, since DC is a small, all urban jurisdiction, insurers in DC are not allowed to vary the rates they charge based on where in the District the insured lives.

Does DC law say whether or not an insurance company can charge more if the customer is involved in an accident?
District of Columbia law § 31-2703(b) allows insurers to use, “past and prospective loss experience within and outside the District . . . .” in making insurance rates for use in the District of Columbia.

Securities

How can I tell if a securities firm or a particular individual in a securities firm has a DC license?
You can call the Licensing Division of the Securities Bureau at (202) 727-8000 to find out if a broker-dealer or investment adviser firm, or an individual at either type of firms, is licensed with the Securities Bureau.

  
Can I find out if the firm or individual has been the subject of any complaints or disciplinary action?
Yes. You can also get any disciplinary history that involves a particular firm or individual by calling the Securities Bureau at the number above, or by visiting the SEC website at  www.sec.gov. On the home page, go to Investor Information and click on “Check out Brokers & Advisers.”
  
Can you recommend an investment adviser or broker-dealer?
No. We can only provide information in the public record about a licensed professional or firm.
  
I have heard about a great investment opportunity. How can I check it out?
You can call the Corporation Finance Division to see if the investment offering is registered with DISB. Also, you can check the SEC Web site to see if the offering is in the SEC system by visiting www.sec.gov. On the home page, go to Filings & Forms (EDGAR) and click on “Search for Company Filings.”
  
Where can I go to find out more about investing in the stock market or planning for retirement, etc.?
There are many good sources of information about investing. Seven brochures with useful information may be found by selecting Investor Education@Your Library. You can also request printed copies of the most popular brochures by calling DISB’s Public Information Office at (202) 727-8000. In addition, there is a great deal of information in the business section of the DC Public Library.
  
Who do I contact if I think I have been treated improperly by a licensed securities professional, or that the investment I purchased was not accurately described to me?
You can call the Examinations Division of the Securities Bureau at (202) 727-8000. You can also obtain a complaint form on the DISB Web site or request a hard copy from the Examinations Division.
  
After I submit the complaint, what can I expect to happen?
A staff member will call or write you regarding the complaint form.

Banking 

What type of business does the Banking Bureau regulate?
The Banking Bureau charters and regulates banks, savings banks, trust companies, and other financial institutions seeking to establish an office in the District where deposits or savings are received. The bureau also regulates mortgage lenders and brokers, check cashers, money transmitters, consumer-sales-finance companies, moneylenders and operators of non-bank Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in the District.
  
How can I get an application for a license to operate as a mortgage lender and broker, check casher, money transmitter, moneylender, consumer-sales-finance company or to operate a non-bank ATM?
You can obtain an application by selecting Nondepository Licensing Information and Applications.
  
How do I file a complaint against a licensee regulated by the Banking Bureau?
As part of our responsibility, the Banking Bureau reviews complaints against the licensees we regulate. You may file a complaint online or download a PDF version of the form by selecting Complaints.
  
What kind of information do I need to provide with my complaint?
It is helpful if you provide as much documentation as possible pertaining to your complaint, such as account statements and correspondence. Do NOT send originals. Mail copies of supporting materials and correspondence to Banking Bureau (see DISB Directory on the last page).
  
How many residential mortgage loans can a person or entity make or broker without obtaining a license?
None. There is no longer an exemption from licensing for persons who make or broker three or fewer loans. The current D.C. Mortgage Lender and Broker Act of 1996 requires that any person or entity, for compensation or gain, or in the expectation of compensation or gain, making or brokering (or intending to make or broker) a single residential mortgage loan in the District must be licensed by the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.
  
How can I find what happened to a bank that is no longer operating?
You can visit the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)'s Web site at www.fdic.gov. Information is available on all open and closed banks.
  
How do I legally serve a bank?
You no longer have to go through a resident agent. You can now serve any officer or director of any banking institution.
  
How can I verify the status of a license issued by the Banking Bureau?
You may verify if an entity is currently licensed with us by selecting License Verification of Nondepository Institutions. You may also contact the Banking Bureau's licensing staff at BankingBureau@dc.gov.
  
Do banks have to cash my check?
Banks do not have to cash your checks. Most banks require you to have an account with them in order to cash personal checks. However, many will cash DC government checks with two forms of valid identification, even without an account.
  

Anti-Fraud (Enforcement and Investigation)

What does the Enforcement and Consumer Protection Division do?
The division investigates all types of allegations of financial-services fraud referrals, such as automobile, property/homes, health, vision and dental care plans, life, workers' compensation, stock market manipulations, and predatory lending. Also, it addresses allegations of fraud committed by insurance producers/agents, insurance companies, HMOs, securities brokers, securities investment advisers and other financial services as well as consumer fraud.
 
What does the Enforcement and Consumer Protection Division NOT do?
The division does not act as your lawyer, give you any legal advice or investigate allegations regarding DC Government Employees Benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security or tax fraud.
 
If I suspect that someone has committed an alleged act of financial-services fraud, should I report it?
Yes. In fact, the department encourages you to do so because it will assist us in combating all types of financial-services fraud in the District.
 
How do I report an allegation of financial-services fraud to the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking?
To report any of these types of fraud, please contact the department at disbcomplaints@dc.gov  or report online at file a complaint or report fraud.
 
After reporting an allegation of financial-services fraud, how soon should I expect to hear from the department?
Within one to two weeks after the department receives your alleged fraud referral, a fraud investigator will mail you an acknowledgement letter, which will indicate the name of your fraud investigator and file number for all future references. However, if your complaint is not within the regulatory jurisdiction or authority of DISB, you will still receive a written response regarding your other options within two weeks.
 
How long does it take to complete an investigation?
There is no set time set for completion of investigation referrals. They will be fully investigated until all avenues of investigation are complete. The nature and complexity of a referral and subsequent investigation sometimes requires lengthy investigation.
 
Should I call to check on the investigation process?
No. Your assigned fraud investigator will keep you informed. However, if you have additional information, please put it in writing and send it to your assigned fraud investigator.
 
How does the Enforcement and Consumer Protection Division resolve financial-services fraud referrals?
If the division determines that there is not sufficient evidence that the alleged fraud was committed, you will receive a letter explaining why the division is closing the investigation. On the other hand, if the division determines that there is sufficient evidence that the alleged fraud may have been committed, it will conduct a full investigation and then refer the case to the US Attorney's Office for consideration for criminal prosecution; or to DISB's Office of Legal Affairs; or to the appropriate DISB bureau or external regulatory agency for consideration to take administrative action, or both. Keep in mind that fraud is acting in violation of any of the DC insurance, securities or banking and financial institutions laws or regulations.