CBS ’60 Minutes’ Episode Guide (April 17): Insurers Not Paying Benefits; Hacking Your Smart Phone

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CBS ’60 Minutes’ Episode Guide (April 17): Insurers Not Paying Benefits; Hacking Your Smart Phone

Audits of the nation’s biggest insurance companies have uncovered a systemic practice of insurers not paying benefits on millions of policies—even when the companies knew the policyholder was deceased.

Lesley Stahl reports that 25 insurance companies, without admitting wrongdoing, have agreed to pay more than $7.5 billion in back death benefits, in a series of settlements reached with states across the country. Thirty-five companies still haven’t settled and remain under investigation. Stahl’s report will be broadcast on “60 Minutes,” tonight, April 17 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Insurance companies have long maintained that it is up to policyholders’ beneficiaries to contact the insurance company and to file a claim in order to collect whatever death benefit may be due to them. But if beneficiaries are unaware of the policy, they don’t know to file a claim, something that happens with surprising frequency, says Kevin McCarty, the insurance commissioner of Florida who led the task force investigating the industry.

McCarty says the insurance companies don’t reach out to the beneficiaries — even when the insurers know of the policyholder’s death. “What we found is that companies have actual knowledge in their files that people have died, yet they have neglected to initiate an investigation and pay the claim,” he tells Stahl.

One way insurers learned of someone’s death was through the use of the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File. McCarty says that many insurance companies used the Death Master File to their advantage, cutting off annuity or retirement benefits to policyholders when they died, but not using it to notify beneficiaries that they’re owed a death benefit.

McCarty is bothered by that practice. “I’m here to say that you have a responsibility to investigate a claim if you know someone has died,” he says.

What’s even worse, says McCarty, is a practice he discovered involving whole life policies in which many insurers continued to make premium payments to themselves using their dead customers’ money. What happened, McCarty says, is that policyholders built up a cash value in their policies over time, a nest egg they could access while alive. But after they passed away, many of the insurance companies drained down that accrued cash value to pay themselves premiums. It’s a tactic originally designed to keep a policy in force if the holder has lost the financial ability to pay premiums. But in this case, McCarty says, it’s adding insult to injury. “Oh, by the way. If you stick that policy in a shoebox and stick it in your closet, not only are we not going to look for you, but we’re going to take all the cash value in it… Give it back to the company. And leave your beneficiary with nothing. Here, sign here.”

Then, later in the “60 Minutes” broadcast, international experts in mobile security, including California-based Lookout founder John Hering and Berlin-based Karsten Nohl of Security Research Labs, show how mobile phones and the networks that carry their signals can be exploited by hackers.

Hering gathered a group of security researchers in Las Vegas, during a hackers convention, and they broke into “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi’s phone. Hering demonstrated how he could read Alfonsi’s email as well as collect her credit card and other private and personal information.

Nohl and his team in Berlin showed how they were able to exploit a flaw in a global mobile network called Signaling System Seven—or S-S-7. The team was able to monitor and record a phone that “60 Minutes” lent to U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D.-Calif.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Information Technology. Sharyn Alfonsi’s report will be broadcast tonight, April 17 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

S-S-7, Alfonsi reports, is a little-known, but vital network that connects mobile phone carriers all over the world. By exploiting a flaw in the system, Nohl told Alfonsi, he could target the phone Rep. Lieu was using and “track their whereabouts, know where they go for work, which other people they meet. You can spy on whom they call and what they say over the phone.”

Rep. Lieu considers the flaw a threat to national security and when Alfonsi played a recording of one of the congressman’s calls he reacted by saying, “First it’s really creepy and second, it makes me angry.” The congressman warned that someone who targeted his phone could have listened in on a conversation he had with President Obama. “That’s immensely troubling,” he said. Nohl explained that the S-S-7 flaw could be used to spy on other politicians and business leaders whose communications could be of high value to hackers. Alfonsi also reports that the flaw is well known among intelligence agencies, including those in the U.S.

Hering told Alfonsi, “In today’s world there’s really only two types of companies or two types of people: Those who have been hacked and realize it and those who have been hacked and haven’t.” He demonstrated how easily a mobile phone user could be fooled by a phony free Wi-Fi connection into revealing a host of personal and financial information stored on the device. In a demonstration for “60 Minutes,” he showed Alfonsi, “I have your email…I know you have a ride-sharing application up here, all the information that’s being transmitted, including your account ID…I have all the credit cards associated with that account.”

“60 Minutes,” the most successful television broadcast in history, began its 48th season in September 2015. Offering hard-hitting investigative reports, interviews, feature segments and profiles of people in the news, the broadcast begun in 1968 is still a hit in 2015, making Nielsen’s Top 10 list nine consecutive weeks in the fall of 2014.

Over the 2013-2014 season, “60 Minutes” continued its dominance as the number-one news program, drawing an average of 12.2 million viewers per week – almost twice the audience of its nearest network news magazine competitor and three million viewers ahead of the most-watched daily network evening news broadcast. The average audience for a “60 Minutes” broadcast still dwarfs the biggest audiences drawn by cable news programs.

LAST WEEK’S TOP 10 BROADCAST SERIES

SeriesNet.A18-49Viewers
Source: Nielsen Media Research // 11/06/17 - 11/12/17
Sunday Night FootballNBC5.8017.51 million
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The OTFOX3.6010.18 million
The CMA AwardsABC3.2014.28 million
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TV WATCH TOP 10: 2017-18 SEASON AVERAGES

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Sunday Night FootballNBC6.7719.04 million
Thursday Night FootballCBS4.7314.75 million
Young SheldonCBS3.8015.86 million
The Big Bang TheoryCBS3.2514.48 million
This Is UsNBC3.1811.42 million
The Voice (Mon.)NBC2.5010.72 million
The Voice (Tues.)NBC2.4010.62 million
Will & GraceNBC2.137.69 million
Grey's AnatomyABC2.178.07 million
The Good DoctorABC2.1010.86 million