Insurance
How Insurance Mis-selling Defrauds Senior Citizens
Senior citizens with comfortable savings are being systematically targeted and defrauded by insurance companies. What is worse, this organised loot is done by relationship managers of the best banks and their insurance associates, with the top management turning a blind eye to the fraud. The mis-selling is almost like a template. The bank relationship manager convinces the senior citizen to buy a bunch of policies—often as a gift for children and grandchildren. These policies are portrayed as fixed deposits with insurance benefits but are, in fact, policies requiring payment of hefty annual premiums. Consequently, the annual premiums range from  Rs 1 lakh to Rs5 lakh, which the seniors are unable to pay and the policies lapse.
 
When they realise that they have been duped, sometimes a year later, they begin to demand their money back. At this time, the insurance company officials collude with the bankers to ensure that complaints are rejected on the grounds that free look-in period is over and their signature on the form confirms assent. It is true that seniors have signed on the dotted line, but it was only because of an implicit trust in their bankers. Having trusted the bank with their life savings, they find it impossible to suspect that their sweet-talking relationship manager is deliberately and systematically cheating them. In most cases, the policy is explained to them in detail with plenty of calculations, but the manager is careful not to leave any paper behind. Often, even after they notice that the policy document is different from the promises made, the glib-talking relationship manager says he will sort things out with the insurance company which is an affiliate. Consider these three cases that Moneylife Foundation came across in just the past six weeks. 
 
Mr Raghunathan (name changed), 80, was a retired senior executive of Tata Exports. His ‘wealth manager’ sold him a dozen insurance policies. The beneficiaries were his sons Durgesh (two polices of Rs3 lakh and Rs6 lakh) and Kapil (five polices of Rs2 lakh, Rs3 lakh, Rs2.4 lakh and Rs5 lakh) and his granddaughter Supriya (five policies of Rs2 lakh, Rs4 lakh, Rs2.4 lakh, Rs10 lakh and Rs20 lakh). The total: a whopping Rs62.8 lakh. The wealth manager had become bolder when the last two were signed and the amounts were significantly larger. The total premium payable on these policies per year was impossibly high and not even feasible. In fact, his savings over a lifetime were decimated. 
 
Interestingly, several policies were allowed to lapse, even after the premium had been paid for three years, and new ones opened, to log in fresh business to meet the next year’s target of the wealth manager. The bank is aware that the same wealth manager had cheated four others, including an 86-year old, whose signatures were forged, and Mr Raghunathan’s own brother, in whose name he created an email ID that was used for official communication. A doctor was sold a ‘single premium policy’ of Rs70 lakh, only to find that she needed to make five more payments of the same amount. The wealth manager’s actions are under investigation; but the bank is unlikely to refund the premiums unless there is pressure. Mr Raghunathan got his money back after Moneylife took up the case with the managing director of the bank. But what happens to the others? 
 
A 78-year-old retired chairman of the income-tax settlement commission was the victim of this fraud. The relationship manager of a leading private bank sold a ‘guaranteed return’ product, where a ‘deposit’ of Rs1 lakh, would fetch a maturity value of Rs1.42 lakh at the end of three years. One person in the family would get a Rs3 lakh life cover. Three company officials reiterated and confirmed the terms. He was persuaded to part with his cheque and told that the policy document would be sent shortly. The document he received was a 10-year policy in his daughter’s name with an annual premium of over Rs95,000. Shockingly, multiple people in the insurance company continued to fool him saying that the document was an interim paper and the ‘final policy document’ would have the correct terms. All this was in telephone conversations. When he, finally, filed a written complaint, he was given the brush off saying his consent was obtained and he had not rejected the policy during the free look-in  period. He got a full refund after Moneylife wrote to the group chairman. But this is a clear case of fraud with the active connivance of company officials. 
 
The third case, of Abhay Kulkarni of Dadar (name changed), is the worst, with no solution. Mr Kulkarni’s NRI son wrote to us in anguish that his 70 plus father, retired from Air India, has squandered his entire retirement fund of Rs60 lakh on insurance policies sold as single-premium ones with high returns. The policies lapsed when he discovered that he needed to pay annual premiums for five years or more. A new set of agents is now persuading him to part with more money by offering to recover the money. The policies were all booked with blue-chip names in the financial world. We couldn’t help him because Mr Kulkarni, unlike his son, continues to believe the agents will help him recover the money. He is also driving himself into a bigger hole by borrowing from relatives to buy new policies.
 
In cases like these, consumers end up running from pillar to post with no end in sight. Banks and insurers are fully aware that their victims have no will or resources to drag them to court. This makes them very easy targets. But one consumer did go to court in a case relating to SBI Life Insurance. It led to a stinging judgement by the Allahabad High Court. The Court even asked the Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO) of the ministry of corporate affairs and the insurance regulator to examine the unlawful gains made by the insurer by cheating consumers. How did the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) react to this? By setting up a committee “To recommend measures for curbing mis-selling and rationalising distribution incentives in financial products.” The report was submitted in August 2015, but nothing has happened on the ground. 
 
The insurance sold to all the people mentioned above was clearly unsuitable and fraudulent; but since our financial regulators have little interest in enforcing their regulations, powerful insurers get away. Victims of mis-selling also receive no help from the banking ombudsman or the insurance ombudsman. In most cases, a complaint is dismissed primarily on one query alone—Did you sign the proposal form? If the answer is yes, the charge of mis-selling is rejected outright, though there is a clear pattern of identical complaints. 
 
Check newspaper columns that publish answers to readers’ queries on insurance. If a victim seeks remedies to mis-selling, the standard answer is: You need to “conclusively prove that you were mis-sold insurance. Unfortunately, your position is considerably weakened because you signed a proposal form and documents that do not mention the high returns” or failed to complain in the free look-in period. Every insurer knows this is a deliberate trap. The relationship manager ensures that the customer does not even receive policy documents until the free look-in period has ended.
 
The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) consumer charter, if given teeth—in the form of hefty compensation and penalty for such deliberate mis-selling of third-party products—would stop such abusive practices. Instead, RBI is watching silently as gross abuse of senior citizens’ savings continues unabated. IRDAI has taken a cue from RBI and seems set to decimate consumer protection. A draft of IRDAI (Protection of Policyholders’ Interests) Regulations, 2017, which is open for public comment, has reportedly removed provisions that protected consumers from unfair market conduct, mis-representation of policy benefits, unfair terms of contract, conflict of interest of advisors, right to fair disclosure and suitable advice.
 
Isn’t it time that IRDAI (and the insurance ombudsman) wakes up to this standard template of mis-selling and orders refunds in all such cases? If multiple financial regulators fail the ordinary consumer, it is time we demand a unified financial regulator and the single-point grievance redress that cuts across regulatory turfs of IRDAI, RBI and others.

User

COMMENTS

Manish Jain

6 days ago

Is there any legal person/advocate/organization who specializes in representing such senior people/uneducated people to present their case to the insurance company?

Manish Jain

1 week ago

Thanks for this article. This is exactly what has happened to a Senior Citizen I am trying to help, who has taken on life policies in other people name because of promise of a bonus by IRDAI. The poor people do no have an education to understand the complexities of Life insurance and simply trust people on their work and sign papers. I would hope the private insurance fix this for the reputation of their company.

Suketu Shah

4 weeks ago

Super work moneylife is going.One "expert"(thats what he calls himself although I think he a "fake expert" had the guts to tell me not to read India's best financial and investment magazine in Sept 2012 when I didnot know much about equity.

Now such statement wl straight lead to police complaint and humiliation to his private bank.Shaming such people on social media etc is very very powerful.They cannot fool us but atleast they also cannot fool the hundreds/thousands who read our experience.

In financial education, the head of the family has to get financially educated via the right educator(not wrong)and lead the way so no one in the family can get cheated by "fake experts".There is no other way.

RAVI SINGH

5 months ago

I am also a victim of such fraud.
i had asked for single premium policies of 3lakh and 2 policies of 1 lakh each ( Total 5 lakhs) but when i received the policy document, it turned out to be an endowment policy where i have to pay premium of 5 lakhs for 10 years, i wish that moneylife take up my case.
THANKS

REPLY

Vijay Dadoo

In Reply to RAVI SINGH 5 months ago

I think it is time for some one, or all of us writing to The Finance Minister, Prime Minister of India, and seek redressal of our grievances against the Life Insurance Companies, their connections in the Banks, who peep in to our account, and approach the prospective customers.
It shall be certainly better, if we all appeal Padma Shri Ms. Sucheta Dalal to lead the group.
Through this mail, I request Ms. Sucheta Dalal to kindly approach the Honourable Finance Minister, Honourable Prime Minister and others, which Ms. Dalal knows better.

Heathwood Johnson

5 months ago

Its a typical case of "fence eating the grass". As Senior Citizens are wits are no more at their best and then to be defrauded by Banks with in which we may have had accounts





several decades shakes one's faith in humanity. One can only hope that authorities concerned will come out with suitable solutions --- in our life time !!!
Perhaps this is a fit scandal for our TV Media to highlight for common good.

REPLY

Vijay Dadoo

In Reply to Heathwood Johnson 5 months ago

It is of very great importance. Government of India has permitted 49% FDI. Secondly, the Sr. citizens have invested often their entire life savings and available money. Kindly go through the write up by Ms. Sucheta Dalal wherein she has quoted a case of Rs. 70 lacs being invested by a Sr. Citizen in Single Premium policy, which has gone to nuts. The Government should also take a note of a very good article by Ms. Sucheta Dalal, who is a known personality. IRDAI, Ministry of Finance should take note of the contents of the article.

Sucheta Dalal

6 months ago

If misselling by banks worries you, please sign and share this petition against it : https://tinyurl.com/k45z4n5

Vijay Dadoo

6 months ago

Ms Sucheta Dallas should write to Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Chairman CBDT, Chartered Accountant's All India Body, and the sufferers like me, my wife should also write to these authorities directly, in a bid to find solution to these misleading acts of InInsurance Companies, and Banks, who, on account of access to our accounts pass on the information of prospective buyers of policies.
As such these Insurance Companies do not own any responsibilities.

REPLY

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Vijay Dadoo 6 months ago

Sir. you can start by signing and sharing this petition. If the PM has to be convinced there are so many sufferers then lets at least have 100,000 signatures here. If simple letters made a difference we would be a great country. We have sent dozens of letters before starting this effort. Even here we have spoken to many MPs.
Click this : https://tinyurl.com/k45z4n5

Vijay Dadoo

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 6 months ago

We, myself and my wife Prabha Dadoo wholeheartedly support you. Kindly go ahead.
I request all the Sr. Citizens, or their kind, who have suffered through these policies to support the efforts and initiatives of Ms. Sucheta Dalal. All the sufferers can also directly write to P.M. Office, Finance Minister Office, CBDT and IRDAI.

Vijay Dadoo

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 6 months ago

No. It is not possible for me/us to collect One Lac Signatures. But, does it require One Lac Signatures to make your problems known to Government? On our part, We, my wife and myself have written to Chairman CBDT, the mail has been acknowledged, and we do hope to get a reply.
We have learnt that P.M.Office takes action on every letter/mail sent. We are not a known face, but you are. Therefore, we had requested you to kindly take up the issue with P.M.Office, Finance Minister Office, Chairman CBDT, IRDAI and others. It may be immense help if we can learn how many policies (Specially Single Premium Policy, which is referred by you in your article are issued by the 24 Life Insurance Companies may be through CIC or RTI or through the INsurance Companies directly. We shall co operate in any manner that you suggest.

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Vijay Dadoo 6 months ago

Please read again. You were asked to SIGN the petition, not collect one lakh signatures -- I have done that already. You may have noticed that all this effort is to help as best as we can.

Gurudutt Mundkur

6 months ago

Nobody can fool you unless you allow them to do so.

REPLY

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Gurudutt Mundkur 6 months ago

Lets pray that it does not happen to someone close to you.

Vijay Dadoo

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 6 months ago

Only the one who wears, knows where the shoes pinches. Therefore, Mr. Mundkar, kindly check up with your well placed friends and relatives, and find out if any one Sr. citizen has taken up a policy, and then find out present position and then react. Nothing Personal please.

Vijay Dadoo

6 months ago

Insurance , specially Life insurance business is all fraud. The agents get huge first payout and also every year thereafter, therefore are always pursuing the prospective customers, showing that there is a huge earning, which will take care of their old age requirements. Nothing is in black and white, no details about receivables against time in the policy. As a common person, no body is able to read the fine print, and the things come to knowledge much later, and the Insurance Companies play the Card of having given the customer 15 days free look period, and the proposal form having been signed by the person.
IRDAI does not take care of these aspects of the policies. Policies are being sold as Diamond, Platinum, Gold etc, just fooling people.
Insurance ombudsman also never takes care of the Sr. citizens trapped in the trap laid out by the Insurance Companies.
With no other source of income, the Sr. citizens get into forever trouble

sundararaman gopalakrishnan

6 months ago

Moneylife is doing yeomen service in highlighting the problems faced by common citizens due to mis selling by relationship managers and agents.
Better to stay away from these.
Bank FD looks a great option compared to these!!

jaideep shirali

6 months ago

The insurance sellers need to be penalised for mis selling. But, as an advisor, I keep seeing the same depressing attitude towards investments, especially insurance. Just 3 questions, "Do I get 80 C benefit?", "What is the amount ?" and "Where do I sign?" is what I am told by clients, many of whom do not bother to understand the product, because they "do not have the time". Please ask questions, it is your money at stake.

REPLY

Vijay Dadoo

In Reply to jaideep shirali 6 months ago

That is one part of the mis selling. There are plenty of other side effects as rightly pointed out by Ms. Dalal. Do quote some cases known to you

David M. Thangliana

6 months ago

Great article. Hope it wakes up not only the concerned authorities, but also those being targetted for duping.

SRINIVAS SHENOY

6 months ago

In my case mis-selling of an Insurance Policy to me took place prior to my retirement. I was requested by one of my bank colleague to purchase a policy through him, as a favour in which my bank had a stake. This has resulted in me not canvassing the policy to any third party, lest the same fate befalls them.

Suketu Shah

6 months ago

Superb article.

Alok Asthana

6 months ago

Well brought out. Thanks.

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