FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
Volume 4, Number 35, August 31, 2007
Last Tuesday, Chief
Financial Officer Alex Sink presented a resolution to the Governor and
Cabinet recognizing Saturday, September 8, 2007, as International Literacy
In celebration, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP)
Florida State Parks are partnering with the Department of Education’s (DOE)
Just Read, Florida! program, the Department of State, the Florida Lottery,
Volunteer USA Foundation, Adult and Community Educators of Florida, local
libraries and Florida Literacy Coalition.
CFO Sink, who is working to promote financial literacy, said the efforts go
hand in hand.
“As the Chief Financial Officer, one of my highest priorities is educating
consumers about managing their money,” said CFO Sink. “Since so much
financial information requires reading and understanding what you read, I am
pleased to support International Literacy Day.”
Throughout the month of September, visitors to any of the state’s 160 parks
can enter for free by presenting a library card or library book, or by
donating a new or good-condition used book. The books will be distributed to
underprivileged children throughout the state.
For more information about DEP’s Florida State Parks, visit
To learn more about DOE’s Just Read, Florida! program, visit
For information on library services available online, go to
www.dos.state.fl.us. And to
learn more about the Florida Literacy Council, go to
CFO SINK: MORE THAN 100,000 HOMEOWNERS HAVE SIGNED UP FOR THE MY SAFE
FLORIDA HOME PROGRAM
After going statewide five months ago, program at 25 percent of its goal
for free wind inspections
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced that more than 103,000
Florida homeowners have signed up for free wind inspections through the My
Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program, signifying the program has reached 25
percent of its long-term goal of 400,000 free wind inspections in the next
“Thousands of Florida homeowners are learning how to harden and protect
their homes from hurricane damage,” said CFO Sink, who runs the Department
of Financial Services and oversees the MSFH program. “We are able to help
thousands more Floridians in the next two years. I encourage every eligible
Florida homeowner to sign up to receive a free wind inspection from the My
Safe Florida Home program.”
Any Floridian who lives in a single-family, site-built home is eligible for
a free wind inspection through the MSFH program, which helps Floridians
identify how they can strengthen their homes and reduces the overall
potential for hurricane damage in our state. Floridians can apply on-line at
by calling the program toll-free at 1-866-513-6734. Homeowners who receive
free wind inspections through the MSFH program will receive a detailed
inspection report, complete with additional information on estimated
insurance premium discounts, if the homeowner is eligible.
Additionally, some Florida homeowners receiving a free wind inspection may
be eligible for a matching grant reimbursement of up to $5,000 to make
recommended improvements. To be eligible, the Legislature requires that
homeowners: have received a completed wind inspection after May 1, 2007;
live in a single-family, site-built home built before March 1, 2002; have a
valid homestead exemption; have an insured value of $300,000 or less; and be
located in the wind-borne debris region. Additionally, while the free wind
inspections will still cover seven potential wind-resistance improvements,
matching grants may only be applied to opening protections, including
windows, exterior doors and garage doors, as well as the bracing of gable
The MSFH program expanded statewide this spring after a pilot program the
previous year and has performed more than 72,000 free wind inspections since
April 23, 2007, for a total of 86,969 inspections since the program started.
Since the program streamlined its services and re-launched in April 2007,
CFO Sink has increased helpline staff, reduced the wait time for an
inspection, and recruited hundreds of program inspectors and contractors.
Approximately 8,700 homeowners statewide have been approved to receive
matching grants from the MSFH program upon the completion of their
recommended improvements. Statewide, the program has issued nearly $2.8
million in grants to 890 homeowners who have completed the improvements
recommended in their MSFH inspection reports.
TAMPA WOMAN CHARGED WITH SELLING
FAKE INSURANCE CARDS
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is urging
consumers to contact the Department of Financial
Services if they purchased automobile insurance coverage
from a Tampa woman who allegedly sold fraudulent
Margaret Stillings, 49, who was doing business at 4170
E. Hillsborough Ave., was arrested on August 16
following an investigation by the department’s Division
of Insurance Fraud (DIF) and the National Insurance
Crime Bureau. She was arrested on charges of providing
false/fraudulent proof of Personal Injury Protection
(PIP) motor vehicle insurance and transacting insurance
without a license, both third-degree felonies. She was
booked into the Hillsborough County Jail, with bond set
at $5,000, and if convicted on both charges faces up to
five years in prison on each count.
“Consumers should call the department’s consumer
helpline or log on to
to verify licensure before doing business with any
insurance agent,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the
department and DIF. “We’ve made it easy and quick to get
information you need to protect yourself and your
Undercover agents entered Stillings’ place of business
and allegedly purchased a fraudulent auto insurance card
from her for $100. Stillings has never been licensed to
sell insurance in Florida, and therefore any person in
possession of an insurance card sold by this individual
or obtained from that address should verify that they do
in fact have proper insurance. For assistance in
verifying coverage or verifying an agent’s license,
consumers should call the department’s consumer helpline
Detective Michael Hennessy was DIF’s lead investigator.
The charges will be prosecuted in Hillsborough County by
the State Attorney's Office, 13th Judicial Circuit of
The Division of Insurance Fraud is a statewide law
enforcement agency that investigates fraud in all types
of insurance, including health, life, auto, property and
workers’ compensation. To report information about this
case or any other possible insurance fraud case, call
the department’s fraud hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A
reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information
leading to an arrest and conviction.
FINANCIAL PRIVACY. . . ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS
A Message to Readers from FDIC Consumer News
In FDIC Consumer News, we describe your rights to financial
privacy under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. This federal law requires
your financial institutions to provide notices describing the type of
information they intend to share with third parties and how customers may
"opt out" or say "no" to information sharing under certain circumstances.
Financial institutions were required to send notices to existing customers
by July 1, 2001. Thereafter, new customers also will get privacy notices,
and all customers will receive a notice annually. We previously invited
readers to submit questions about their financial privacy rights. Here are
some of the questions we received, and our answers.
Can I contact my bank and credit card companies to request that they not
share my information or do I need to fill out a form?
Financial institutions that intend to share non-public personal information
about consumers with other companies must give those individuals a chance to
opt out, with certain exceptions (such as for information needed to process
loans, mail account statements or conduct other normal business). But when
it comes to how customers can opt out, the rules leave that up to
each financial institution, provided the procedures are reasonable.
Institutions must describe their opt-out procedures in their privacy
notices. For example, your institution may require you to complete and
return a form, or it may require you to call a certain phone number. To
ensure that your request is honored, it's important to follow the
institution's opt-out instructions. If you don't have a copy of your
institution's requirements, call the customer service department and ask how
to opt out.
Some of the institutions don't say anything about contacting them to opt
out, yet according to the notices, these institutions are sharing plenty of
information. When can an institution share information without giving a
customer a chance to opt out?
Under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, you cannot stop an institution from
providing personal information to outside companies and organizations
if, for example, the information is used to:
institution's own products or services;
products or services jointly with another financial institution.
Enable a third
party to help conduct normal business for your institution, such as handling
data processing for accounts or mailing account statements.
In addition, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows an
institution to share with affiliates (other parts of the same
corporate family) certain information based on your transactions with the
institution. This kind of information sharing also can be done without
giving you an opportunity to say no.
Example: Your bank can tell an affiliated brokerage firm that you have a
certificate of deposit about to mature, so it can offer you an investment
alternative. Your bank, however, cannot provide an affiliate with personal
information from, say, your credit report or loan application unless you're
given a chance to opt out first (because that information is not
based solely on transactions you've conducted with the bank).
If I send the proper notice that I wish to opt out, do I have to redo
this form each year or will my initial notice remain in effect?
You do not need to renew your opt-out instructions with a bank or other
financial institution. One request will remain in effect indefinitely unless
you contact the institution asking to cancel it. But let's say your
institution later decides to expand how much customer information it intends
to provide to other companies. If it's the kind of information the law says
you have a right to prevent from being shared, "your institution must
provide you with a revised privacy notice and give you an opportunity to opt
out of the new information sharing," says David Lafleur, Policy Analyst for
the FDIC's Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection. "This is another
example why we say you should pay attention to every privacy notice you get
from your financial institutions."
We've also been asked what happens to a consumer's opt-out request if your
that is less protective of your personal information. Here, the
merged institution must give you the right to opt out before it could apply
that less-protective policy to your personal information.
If I opt out of information sharing because I don't want unsolicited
offers, does this prevent my bank from reporting my creditworthiness to
credit bureaus and, therefore, to other institutions I may be applying to
No, even if you opt out, your bank or other financial services firms still
can, and will, report private information to credit bureaus. Why? Because
the privacy law specifically permits institutions to provide nonpublic
personal information to credit bureaus.
Credit bureaus are companies that collect facts about a person's financial
responsibility, such as the timeliness of loan payments. Banks rely on
reports from credit bureaus when deciding, for example, to grant a loan or a
credit card to a particular consumer, and those reports can only be prepared
if financial institutions maintain a regular, free flow of information to
Friends and relatives have forwarded to me the same anonymous e-mail
message warning that, as of July 1, credit bureaus can share my credit
information, mailing address, telephone number and other information "to
anyone who requests it" unless I opt out. Is this true?
No, that's a false rumor widely circulated on the Internet. It's apparently
based on someone's misinterpretation of the July 1 date in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley
Act for banks and other financial institutions to send out privacy mailings
to customers. Here's what you should know: Credit bureaus can't release the
information in your credit report to just anyone who asks for it. Under the
Fair Credit Reporting Act, a credit bureau can only provide this information
to people and businesses with a legitimate right to obtain it, as specified
in the law. For example, a company has a right to get your credit report if
you apply for a credit card, a home equity loan or an insurance product.
However, there are opt-out provisions in the FCRA. One, for example,
gives you the right to prohibit credit bureaus from providing information to
companies that want to send you unsolicited offers of credit or insurance.
The easiest way to remove your name from these special marketing lists sold
by credit bureaus is to make one toll-free phone call to 888-5-OPTOUT
(888-567-8688), a service operated on behalf of the nation's largest credit
bureaus. A phone request to the credit bureaus is only good for two years.
Thereafter, you would have to call again to renew for another two years. To
opt out indefinitely, you must submit a written request using a special form
that you can order from the toll-free number.
The central phone service for credit bureau opt-outs is an automated system
that will ask you to leave personal information, including your Social
Security number. While this automated service promises confidentiality, if
you are reluctant to leave your Social Security number, then you should
write a letter (not an e-mail) to any one of the credit bureaus listed below
and ask it to share your opt-out request with the other companies. Be sure
to include your full name, address, Social Security number and signature.
Also specify if you want to opt out for two years or indefinitely, in which
case you will receive the form to complete. Write to:
Options, P.O. Box 740123, Atlanta, GA 30374-0123;
Opt-Out, P. O. Box 919, Allen, TX 75013-0919;
Consumer Opt Out, P.O. Box 1358, Columbus, OH 43216; or
Consumer Services Helpline (800) 342-2762