Los Angeles

Warnings About Using Autopay Insurance

A case of identity theft and a car accident was a double dose of bad luck for Nick Ralph of Los Angeles, who says he's suffering physically and financially.

The Uber driver thought his insurance company would be there to help pick up the pieces, but as it turns out, the identity theft in this case compromised his bank account and all accounts attached to it.

Including his auto insurance, only he didn't know it.

Ralph's 2015 Nissan Versa got totaled by a motorcycle. But just before the accident, he learned that his identity was stolen and his checking account was compromised.

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"Somebody had taken two Lyft rides in San Francisco and one in Oakland, and I called up Chase Bank immediately," he said.

Statements from Chase Bank confirmed the identity theft, and Ralph was issued a new debit card. The problem was his monthly insurance premiums were deducted by his insurer, Farmer's/Bristol West, through autopay.

Bank records reveal Ralph's insurance tried to collect, but because his debit card number had changed, the payment never processed.

"As soon as I found out about that, I paid, but it was too late for the lapse," he said.

He was left holding the tab for a new car that was his livelihood and all the collateral damage of being uninsured at the time of the accident.

Nancy Kincaid with the California Department of Insurance said that even if you pay bills through autopay, make sure you look at monthly statements.

"You still have that responsibility to make sure you're insured," Kincaid said.

Ralph said his appeals to Farmer's/Bristol West have failed.

"It's been a nightmare," he said.

The I-Team contacted Farmer's/Bristol West who reviewed Ralph's case and were aware of the identity theft. Their response: "Our customer's policy was not in force at the time of his loss due to non-payment of premium, therefore, coverage could not be extended."

"I just want to be able to move forward and to continue with my life," he said.

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