Friday, October 7, 2011

Where you can find a flu shot

Here's a new site, developed by the feds, where you can type in your zip code and immediately get a list of local pharmacies, etc. that have the flu vaccine. (Your doctor or clinic's probably got the shots, too.)

We thought it was pretty clever and useful.

Insurance agent who sold fake policies sentenced to more than two years in prison

An insurance agent who sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in fake business-insurance policies has been sentenced to more than two years in prison.

Brenda MacLaren-Beattie, 68, of Des Moines, Wash., was sentenced Thursday in King County Superior Court to 26 months in prison. She was immediately taken into custody. She was also ordered to pay back $532,659 in restitution.

“I’m very pleased that the court took this as seriously as we did,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “This agent sold fictitious coverage to dozens of medical offices in Washington and Oregon, often for years. People thought they had coverage and they didn’t.”

An investigation by Kreidler’s office found that from late 2001 through 2009, MacLaren-Beattie issued fake insurance to 25 oral surgeons in Washington and 16 in Oregon. During that time, she is believed to have collected more than $532,000 in premiums for fictitious insurance policies, often issuing counterfeit certificates of insurance to doctors and clinics. Her insurance license expired in 2009. (And here's the cease-and-desist order issued at the time.)

In a few cases – a lost camera, some water damage – she paid out small insurance claims herself. One of her clients became suspicious after a claim check was issued by MacLaren-Beattie, rather than from an insurance company.

The fictitious policies were for business owners’ general liability insurance, which typically covers things like slip-and-fall accidents, employee theft, and damage to rented property.

MacLaren-Beattie pleaded guilty in August to eight counts of first-degree theft, a felony. On Thursday, she received eight 26-month sentences, which will run concurrently.

How to avoid buying a flood-damaged car

With hurricane and storm season winding down, an insurance industry organization is warning about the likelihood that flood-damaged vehicles will be sold to salvage dealers, their flood-damage history illegally hidden, and sold as normal cars in the used-car market.

An anti-fraud group, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, has created an online tool where you can look up -- for free -- a car's vehicle identification number and see if it's been declared a salvage vehicle by an insurer. (The VIN number is typically visible through the front windshield, where the windshield meets the car's hood. It's usually a long combination of numbers and letters.)

Also, the Insurance Information Institute suggests being on the lookout for several warning signs that a car may have been flooded:

 Mildew, debris and silt in places where it wouldn't normally be found, such as under the carpeting in the trunk, or around the engine compartment


 Rust on screws and other metal parts

 Waterstains or faded upholstery; discoloration of seatbelts and door panels

 Dampness in the floor and carpeting; moisture on the inside of the instrument panel

 A moldy odor or an intense smell of Lysol or deodorizer; this is a tactic frequently used by dealers to cover up an odor problem

If you suspect that your local car dealer is committing fraud by knowingly selling flooded cars as regular used cars, the III suggests contacting your insurance company, local law enforcement agency or the NICB at 800-TEL-NICB.