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Bank of America Settles Forced-Place Insurance Claims for $228M

I’m glad to see this issue has finally been given the attention it deserves, as many home buyers were subjected to illegal “forced placed” coverage when mortgage companies constantly “sold” mortgages (with tax/insurance escrow accounts) to each other. It seems like everything but the insurance information would be provided to the new lender so they would automatically issued the forced placed coverage. When a home buyer would call the mortgage company he would always be told their monthly increases was because of the insurance costs. And he would never be told it was forced placed coverage. In the state of Main, these costs, for instance, often were in the range of $2,700 to $3,500 per year causing monthly increases of $200-400.

On November 10, 2010, American Banker published an article describing major mortgage lenders’ and servicers’ questionable and often illegal practices related to force-placed
insurance. The article revealed for the first time the exceptionally profitable exclusive relationships, collusive activities, and circular arrangements among the mortgage lenders and
servicers, their affiliates, and their cooperating insurers, most of which are Defendants here.
Lenders and servicers force place insurance when a borrower fails to obtain or maintain proper hazard or flood insurance coverage on property that secures a loan. Under the
typical mortgage agreement, if the insurance policy lapses or provides insufficient coverage, the lender has the right to “force place” a new policy on the property and then charge the premiums
to the borrower.
The arrangements revealed by American Banker comprise an extremely lucrative profit-making scheme in the hundreds of millions of dollars. There are just two insurance companies that control the entire market for forced-placed policies in the country — Assurant and QBE.
Assurant works through its subsidiaries Voyager Indemnity Insurance Company and American Security Insurance Company. These companies and their affiliates enter into exclusive relationships with the major mortgage lenders and servicers to provide the policies. The top four servicers that work with Assurant are Wells Fargo Bank, Citi, HSBC, and Chase. The top servicer that works with QBE/Balboa is Bank of America.
To maintain their exclusive relationships with these lenders, the insurers pay unearned “kickbacks” of a percentage of the force-placed premiums ultimately charged to the borrower, offer them subsidized administrative services, and/or enter into lucrative captive reinsurance deals with them.

Although force-placed insurance is designed to protect the lender’s interest in the property that secures the loan and thus should not exceed that interest, lenders often purchase
coverage from their exclusive insurers in excess of that required to cover their own risk. And, as a matter of practice, the major lenders and servicers collude with the two major force-placed
insurers to manipulate the force-placed insurance market and artificially inflate the premiums charged consumers, resulting in premiums up to ten times greater than those available to the
consumer in the open market. American Banker reported that “Though part of the extra expense can be explained by the higher risks associated with insuring the homes of delinquent borrowers,
force-placed policies generate profit margins unheard of elsewhere in the insurance industry even after accounting for the generous commissions and other payments that servicers demand.”

But finally Bank of America Corp. agreed to pay $228 million to settle claims the bank overcharged for insurance homeowners were forced to accept when their regular policies lapsed. The amount was disclosed in a document requesting approval for the accord filed yesterday in Miami federal court. Lawyers for homeowners told a federal judge in February that the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank had agreed to a deal without providing further information.

The deal is an “extraordinary settlement” that provides “prospective relief that would effectively end the lender- placed insurance practices at issue in this case,” lawyers for plaintiffs said in the Bank of America case.
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Questionable Insurance Claims on the Rise in TX

Questionable insurance claims rose by 38 percent in TX from 2010 through 2012, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports.

Questionable claims (hereby referred as QC) are those claims that NICB member insurance companies refer to NICB for closer review and investigation based on one or more indicators of possible fraud. A single claim may contain up to seven referral reasons.

This report analyzes QCs by loss city, core-based statistical area (CBSA), policy type, loss type, policy and loss type combined and referral reasons.

In 2010, there were 7,520 Texas QCs referred to NICB from its member insurance companies. In 2011, the number increased to 8,016 and rose again in 2012 to 10,368 — a 38 percent increase over 2010′s figure.

The top 5 loss types were:

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Preventing offline identity fraud

offline identity fraudIdentity fraud does not always begin online. According to Travelers claim data, 44 percent of ID fraud cases happen when a person’s purse or wallet has been lost or stolen. Because thieves can use the information they find inside, here are some ways to help protect yourself and your identity.

Watch your wallet and purse
Many people store personal information in their purses and wallets, making it easier for thieves to commit identity fraud. Help secure your identity by keeping your purse and wallet in a safe place and carrying only essentials when you go out. Leave credit cards you will not be using in a secure place at home. Unless it is absolutely necessary, avoid carrying Social Security cards, birth certificates or passports as they contain key pieces of personal information thieves could use to steal your identity.Read More »Preventing offline identity fraud

Protect your personal information from online risks

Going online has become part of everyday life – whether for shopping, sending emails or paying bills, or managing accounts. However, many worry that technology-related issues, including unsolicited emails and unsecured websites, can affect information stored online. The 2013 Travelers Consumer Risk Index shows that 41% of Americans worry about computer and technology issues. These were ranked second among the top five risks causing the most concern. Taking precautions when browsing the Web can help reduce your risk of a cyber attack. Read these tips to learn how to help stay safe online.Read More »Protect your personal information from online risks

What Every Business Owner Should Know About Credit Card Protections

Protecting Against Consumer Identify Theft The use of credit and debit cards and electronic payments has become a way of  life for public and private businesses and their customers. With this, vulnerabilities to credit card fraud and identity theft have increased. To help improve credit and debit card security, the credit card industry and federal and state governments have set standards and regulations.… Read More »What Every Business Owner Should Know About Credit Card Protections

Moving Scams in Texas

Texas officials say that illegal moving companies are operating statewide, putting consumers at risk for losing their belongings or paying a ransom for getting them back. To operate legally, a moving company must display a valid TxDMV or United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) license number on the truck. Movers should never be hired from free Internet advertising sites. In… Read More »Moving Scams in Texas

Eleven Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses

Broadband and information technology are powerful factors in small businesses reaching new markets and increasing productivity and efficiency. However, businesses need cybersecurity tools and tactics to protect themselves, their customers, and their data from growing cyber threats. Here are ten key cybersecuritytips for businesses to protect themselves: 1. Train employees in security principles Establish basic security practices to protect sensitive business… Read More »Eleven Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses

Workers Comp Fraud With Check Cashing Firms

Florida officials, law enforcement officers and trade groups are working to stop check cashing companies from aiding workers’ compensation fraud in the construction industry. Officials are to investigate the role of check cashing companies in order to develop a legislative recommendations for the next year sessions. According to the officials, schemes involve individuals who set up fake companies that apply… Read More »Workers Comp Fraud With Check Cashing Firms

Simple Ways to Protect Private Information

Use different passwords for your login accounts. Hackers know that it’s very common for people to use one password consistently. So, make sure your password varies. Also, avoid including words or information in your passwords that someone could easily derive. For example, don’t combine the name of the street you live on with your birthday. Recognize “phishing” attempts, avoid them… Read More »Simple Ways to Protect Private Information