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Insurance embezzlement: What not to do

INDIO, Calif. - Dozens of embezzlement victims won't lose any money, or Insurance coverage.  Farmer's insurance says they're honoring the policies involved after one of it's former agents was arrested this week for allegedly pocketing client's payments.

32 clients were affected by this fraud and all of them used cash to pay their premiums.  It's a move local insurance agents say you should try to avoid.

Dennis Van Buskirk, owner of Ascend Insurance, says, " Unfortunately there are some unethical people out there."

Juanita Duarte is accused of keeping more than $12,000 in cash payments from customers.  Investigators say duarte never deposited the money into customers' insurance accounts.

"A lot of these people who pay cash, they put a trust in their agent," said Van Buskirk.

Police say for Duarte's clients, that trust was broken.

Duarte used to run her business out of the Indio Farmer's Insurance office on Highway 111.  However Her contract with Farmer's was terminated over two years ago.  The agents that currently occupy this space say they are working very hard to make sure that all of Duarte's former clients are taken care of.

So how do you protect yourself from potential fraud.?

Van Buskirk says don't pay with cash.

"There is not much of a trail when somebody pays cash, I mean somebody like myself we can just give them a receipt that we can make in the office," said Van Buskirk.

Van Buskirk says if you must use cash, get a receipt from the company not just the agent.

"If its noted on the company letter head, it means that its been noted and applied toward their policy," said Van Buskirk.

Van Buskirk also says keep an eye on your mail box.

"When you make a payment, you are supposed to, hopefully, get something in the mail in the following week or so and that will tell you if they've received your payment and if the policy is active," said Van Buskirk.

Van Buskirk says many people simply don't read their policy.

"Unfortunately a lot of the Hispanic community, they don't, because they don't read English and a lot of these things unfortunately aren't in Spanish," said Van Buskirk.

Police say Duarte targeted primarily low-income Spanish-speaking victims, all of whom paid cash, with no way to prove they'd paid their premiums in full.

"It's really important to make sure that you do have a paper trail because things like that can happen," said Van Buskirk.

Duarte plead not guilty on Thursday.  Now it's important to point out, that insurance agents are contracted by insurance companies.  Think of them as franchises.  

They are licensed to sell the insurance policies, but they are not employed by the company.  So, it's important if you feel like there is a problem, contact the company directly not just your agent.

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