State offers tips on finding the right insurance agent - WNEM TV 5

State offers tips on finding the right insurance agent

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The state of Michigan is offering tips to residents looking for help in the area of insurance. The Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation has come out with that advice.

"Before choosing an insurance agent, Michigan consumers are encouraged to do their homework and use every available resource so they can pick the right person for their insurance needs," OFIR Commissioner Kevin Clinton said.

According to OFIR, an independent agent may have contracts with several different insurance companies. A captive or direct agent writes exclusively with one company. Independent and captive agents represent the insurance company and receive a commission from the company.

The OFIR says you should ask your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues why they like an agent. Is it the customer service? Is the agent friendly and knowledgeable? Did the company they represent do a particularly good job handling a claim? Have their rates for a particular coverage increased or decreased over the past three years? Does the agent review their policy annually to make sure they're getting the best coverage at the best price?

You can search online for licensed insurance agents by name, location and other criteria on the OFIR web site. There, consumers can find detailed insurance agent information, including licensing history, types of licenses and the companies the agent works with.

The OFIR says agents may also be found on the internet, in the phonebook or in other directories. It also recommends that residents have conversations or meet with prospective agents to determine if they are a good fit and are able to meet your insurance needs.

Explain your situation and ask for a quote. Simply asking does not mean you have to work with them. This is a chance for you to get a feel for how they work and if you're comfortable with them.

Licensing: To protect yourself from insurance fraud during the purchasing process, OFIR says it is important to ensure the agent and the company they are writing your policy with are licensed in Michigan.

You can find insurance agent licensing information on OFIR's website here and company licensing information can be found here. Consumers can also call OFIR's toll-free consumer hotline 877-999-6442.

The OFIR recommends that you do not give out personal information to an agent until you have verified the company and agent are licensed and credible.

While you're checking whether the agent and the company are licensed, also check to see if they've had complaints filed against them. Consumers can call OFIR for complaint information and whether a regulatory action has been taken against an agent.

When you're applying for a job, you provide references, so don't be afraid to ask a prospective agent for the same. When evaluating a company, you also want to check its financial information.

Insurance company financial information can be found at the National Association of Insurance Commissioner's website here. If consumers have further question about selecting an insurance agent they can call 877-999-6442.

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