Don't Forget Your Free Underwriting Tool - The World Wide Web
With advancing technology and evolving underwriting tools, it may be easy to overlook what has now become an “old standard”, the World Wide Web. Underwriters routinely use numerous screening tools to help assess whether applicants meet the requirements for life insurance: from lab results and motor vehicle reports, to attending physician statements and prescription database checks. But still I wonder how many underwriters conduct a simple web search on their applicants? A quick and simple search could sometimes uncover some significant information.
The World Wide Web provides us access to millions of public webpages that contain a vast amount of information. Of course, it’s important to realize that since there is no regulating body monitoring the reliability and accuracy of the information found, it can’t solely be used as the basis for making an underwriting decision. Carriers should consult with their compliance officer on the appropriate utilization of Internet-developed material when reviewing an application. Nevertheless, what you might find could alert an underwriter to pursue an additional investigation.
Consider the following case involving a seemingly healthy middle-aged man applying for the maximum Non-Medical amount of coverage. A “friend,” who resides in a different state than the proposed insured, is listed as the owner and beneficiary on the application. An inquiry to the agent about the insurable interest results in an ambiguous answer and leaves some uncertainty regarding how to proceed. A web search of the proposed insured then revealed that he was imprisoned and awaiting execution!
Take another case of a young self-employed male who was opening a hydroponics business (method of growing plants) and applying for coverage. The cover letter provided by the agent described a previous possession of marijuana charge that resulted in probation that was already completed. However, a web search revealed a far more serious charge of an arrest for a large-scale marijuana-growing operation with possession and the intent to deliver.
If application information provided to an underwriter through traditional underwriting requirements appears inadequate, as happened in these examples above, a web search may help to round out the information and point the underwriter in the right direction. The World Wide Web is right at our fingertips and can provide details ranging from home values and business operations to criminal history. There are a variety of reasons an underwriter may want to search the web - consider these other few instances:
- A proposed insured competes in motor vehicle racing or another avocation. A search may provide additional details regarding his or her participation level.
- The occupation provided is “business owner.” A search may discover a business website with valuable business details.
- The value of a property listed as an asset is unclear. A search may help provide an estimate of what the property is worth.
- A proposed insured has a high-risk profile or there is a suspicion of criminal history. A search may provide past or current criminal charges.
The World Wide Web is a quick and simple tool that can be very useful at times and may become an increasingly valuable asset to underwriters in years to come.