Insurance Twisting, Churning, and Sliding: How Not To Let Cunning Agents Twist You Around

January 26, 2024

With over a trillion dollars paid in insurance premiums annually, the ever-growing U.S. insurance industry has long set a “being insured is being protected” standard. Over 91% of Americans can boast of health insurance coverage, among many other types of insurance, including life, home, car, travel, pet, and even a nose job. If you can imagine something being insured, it most likely can be insured.

Depending on the age, occupation, and whims of fancy, you may have different insurance demands, but the main point is that you would want to be insured. And if so, then it would only be logical to do your homework before taking action, starting with arguably the most egregious phenomenon in the entire insurance field: insurance twisting.

What Is Twisting in Insurance?

Whether you’re about to get your first insurance policy or change the insurance policies you already own, chances are you’ll ask an insurance agent for help. Depending on the persona, that may be the best experience of your life or a complete disaster.

How come? Unfortunately, insurance agents have much room for maneuvering in the insured-insurer relationship, and some are not afraid to scam their clients for personal enrichment. But let’s move forward to the subject at hand.

Let’s define twisting in insurance:

  • Insurance twisting is when an insurance agent intentionally convinces you to switch to an allegedly better insurance policy, although it would only benefit one party – the agent. Simply put, you are deliberately tricked into buying insurance policies you don’t need.

Agents live off commissions, and sometimes, the temptation is too high.

How to Not Let Cunning Agents Twist You Around

Infographic “Health Insurance Fraud: Facts & Figures To Stay Protected On All Fronts”

What Can and Cannot Be Considered Insurance Twisting

Now that you know what twisting is, let’s draw two examples so that you can understand what would not be considered insurance twisting:

Twisting: An agent advises you to drop your existing life insurance policy in favor of a cheaper term life insurance without warning you that you’d have to forfeit the cash value of your life policy or pay taxes on it as a result of the change.

You should never blindly trust insurance agents. Having second thoughts is reasonable because insidious agents may have more tricks up their sleeves than mere insurance twisting.

What Is Churning in Insurance?

If you want to change your existing coverage, you will likely consult with your current agent first. Alas, unscrupulous agents may resort to churning.

Here’s the definition of churning in insurance:

  • Insurance churning is when an agent intentionally convinces you to switch to an allegedly better insurance policy within the same company, although the replacement would only benefit the agent.

Churning is very similar to insurance twisting, with the only exception that you’re tricked by the same company in the former case.

Falling victim to churning and twisting is easy if you don’t pay attention to details or are not well-versed in financial and legal matters.

Here are several common insurance twisting and churning scenarios:

Impersonation An agent from another company misrepresents themselves as your current insurer, claiming that your policy is about to expire and you have to sign a new one.
Misinformation An agent offers a free financial check-up, during which they persuade you to buy a new policy, which is supposedly more advantageous but, in fact, is worse or equal to your current policy.
Deception An agent intentionally convinces you that your current policy is irrelevant and offers a new one, supposedly better at the moment but, in fact, is worse or equal to your current policy.
Substitution of Concepts An agent suggests updating your current policy so that you have lower contributions and new additional benefits. In reality, the update involves signing a new policy.

Insurance twisting and churning are illegal in the United States, which means insurance agents who engage in such practices can be held accountable for violating consumer protection laws.

What Is Sliding in Insurance?

The trickiest is insurance sliding, which involves addendums and riders, usually the most overlooked part of insurance.

Here’s what sliding in insurance is:

  • Insurance sliding is when an agent intentionally omits to disclose the full details of the coverage – including addendums and riders – which results in a higher insurance premium or when an agent knowingly sells a rider that provides no extra coverage.

An example of sliding would be if you weren’t informed about the increase in premiums or the addendums and did not authorize riders.

Here are some of the most notorious sliding strategies: 

  • Unexpected appearance of an insurance agent who persistently suggests reviewing the current policy and promises significant savings or benefits from new additions
  • Incomplete information regarding the essence, advantages, disadvantages, or cost of additional coverage
  • Discovery of changes in the policy that you were not informed about and did not consent to
  • Creation of FOMO, when the agent purposely accelerates decision-making
  • Inconsistencies between what the agent says and what is declared in the policy
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Protect Yourself Against Insurance Agents’ Tricks

Most states do provide anti-twisting legislation. For example, life insurance replacement requirements endorsed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) are widely adopted. Still, the definitions and terms concerning insurance twisting are so vague that most of the time, it’s unreasonably difficult or even impossible to bring crafty agents to justice.

Therefore, you have to protect yourself on your own, which you can do if armed with your common sense and the following checklist:

  1. Make sure you’re comfortable with the agent. If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of information and the agent’s language, there’s a chance they want to twist you around. A direct and pushy hard sell is considered a poor technique in the insurance industry.
  2. Slowly peruse all the details of the proposed insurance. It may take a lot of time to understand the nuances of the policy, but a good agent is also a good educator. Any signs of irritation or unclear answers to your questions – no matter how many you’ve asked – would be a huge red flag.
  3. Look for the right balance between coverage level, premium, and deductible.

Last but not least, if you think you’ve fallen victim to insurance fraud or unethical practices, you can request the policy reinstatement, consult an attorney, or file a complaint with the regulatory authorities in your state.

The Gut Instinct

As preposterous as it may sound, in addition to being educated, it may be a good idea to listen to your gut instinct. Most insurance codes of conduct are based on natural law, which propagates intrinsic human values and makes the most customer-friendly conduct the only natural and logical one. In other words, double-check, postpone, or even avoid the deal if your gut instinct indicates so.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does twisting mean in insurance?

Insurance twisting is an illegal practice of persuading a policyholder to switch their current policy to a new policy that doesn’t benefit the client. As a result, an insurance company, agent, or broker earns a commission off the deal that’s not in the client’s best interests.

What does churning mean in insurance?

Insurance churning is an illegal practice of persuading a policyholder to switch their current policy to a new policy within the same company, that doesn’t benefit the client or satisfies the client’s best interests. The difference between insurance twisting and churning is that the former involves different companies, whereas the latter occurs within the same company.

What does sliding mean in insurance?

Insurance sliding is an illegal practice of hiding, not disclosing, or omitting to disclose important details about the insurance policy (for example, riders) for the agent’s financial benefit. Likewise, sliding is selling coverage that doesn’t benefit the client.

Olexandr-Rohovnin

Oleksandr Rohovnin is a Content Marketer at Phonexa.com and an expert contributor to American REIA. His passion is digital marketing, innovative technologies, tech industries, and – above all – distilling vast amounts of complex information into engrossing narratives anyone can relate to. At American REIA, Oleksandr stokes passion for auto insurance and the automotive industry in general in every story he curates.

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