Aug. 21--Two life insurance companies have agreed to pay more than $117,000 to refund 25 Pennsylvanians who were sold financial products that unnecessarily cost them thousands of dollars, the state Insurance Department said Tuesday.
A pair of agents from Pittsburgh, Donald L. Gilberg and Nicole P. Gilberg, convinced consumers to replace their annuities with new ones, resulting in sometimes large surrender charges on the original annuities and tying up the funds for years, the department said. Annuities are financial products, often used for retirement planning, that require an upfront investment but guarantees regular payments in the future.
The husband-and-wife couple made more than $136,000 in commissions by selling annuities from Oxford Life, based in Phoenix, and Sentinel Security Life, based in Salt Lake City, the department said. The Insurance Department revoked their licenses last year.
Several victims said they were never told they would incur any charges, the department said. In some cases, victims received calls and letters from the insurance companies asking why they wanted to change their annuities, but were told by the Gilbergs to ignore them.
Donald Gilberg declined comment.
Oxford agreed to refund $67,559 that 17 consumers lost in surrender fees on its annuities, while Sentinel Life refunded $50,000 of the surrender fees that eight consumers lost.
Neither company returned requests for comment.
"I am pleased we were able to recover this money for Pennsylvanians, many of them elderly, who were taken advantage of by two licensed insurance agents," Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said in a statement.
Altman said a 2018 law signed by Gov. Tom Wolf should reduce the chance of such scams happening again. Among other things, the new law requires an agent or insurance company to tell consumers of any fees, costs, or surrender charges they face if replacing an existing annuity, and of any loss of benefits or changes to riders, the department said.
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