Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Contacted by a life insurance company that says you're a beneficiary?

It may not be the scam it sounds like.

We've been hearing a lot lately from consumers who've received letters from life insurance companies saying that they're the beneficiary on a long-deceased loved one's policy.

The letters often include a form that the consumers need to fill out to receive the money, and the form requires them to provide sensitive personal information.

Not surprisingly, many consumers have been skeptical about these letters. But while it may sound too good to be true, the letters may be legitimate. (Keep reading and we'll tell you how to check.)

Here's the background: Until recently, many large life insurers didn't aggressively research whether policyholders had died, even when the person's date of birth suggested that they were almost certainly dead. (This isn't as easy as it sounds, particularly with records that predate the widespread use of social security numbers as an identifier.) Last year, insurance regulators and consumer groups started challenging the insurers to do a better job.

As a result, many life insurers have started checking the names of policyholders against the Social Security Administration's Death Master File. When the companies find an apparent match, they contact the person/s listed as the beneficiary.

But how to be sure that the letter is real? If you live in Washington state, you can contact us at 1-800-562-6900 or reach us 24/7 via our online complaint and information form. We'll get in touch with our contact person at the insurance company who can verify that the letter you received is legitimate.

If you don't live in Washington, here's the contact information for your own state's insurance regulator, who may be able to help.

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