Volume 1 Number 8
February 23, 2004








Click on the Florida map for the list of regional Service Offices.


HELPING FLORIDIANS: A COMMITMENT TO SERVE 

With continuing changes in home, auto and health insurance markets and increasing options in mortgages, securities and investment products, Floridians are searching for a place to turn for answers and assistance. Look no further than the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Consumer Helpline at 1-800-342-2762.

Our consumer specialists helped nearly 400,000 Floridians last year, taking an average of more than 30,000 calls per month.  How do they do it?  A dedication to service, combined with cutting edge technology and expertise on variety of financial services topics helped make the DFS Consumer Helpline one of the best in state government.

Going forward, our helpline staff of 120 hardworking employees are committed to making even more improvements in customer service. Consumers who call will deal with one knowledgeable representative to assist them in resolving a problem with an insurance or investment product, agent or broker. Callers can also get answers to financial questions, receive free consumer guides or even report fraud or abuse during expanded hours from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. weekdays.

For those wanting even more personal service, call or drop by one of our eleven service offices, located around the state, to work directly with a consumer specialist in the local community. Or get service from home by logging on to our website at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.  Click on “Service Point” to search an expansive financial topic database or file a request for assistance online. Internet users can even track their request on the web as specialists update a consumer’s file when new information is available.

Protecting your home and family with the right insurance coverage or saving for retirement involves important and complex decisions.  The Department of Financial Services’ goal is to greatly improve the way consumers receive information they need to make those financial choices.    

                                    

                                        


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BEWARE OF PROMISES OF FAST CASH THIS TAX SEASON

As W-2 forms hit the mailboxes of millions of Floridians, state Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher is warning consumers to be wary of refund anticipation loans - loans that offer cash up front by borrowing against your anticipated tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

“Money today may sound attractive but signing up for quick refund services can be very costly to consumers,” said Gallagher. “Carefully consider the fees and interest rate associated with a refund anticipation loan.”

Consumers may fall prey to refund anticipation loans with promises of “instant refunds” or “quick cash.” Loan fees range from $30 to $105, with administrative fees between $25 and $60 often tacked on to the loan. The effective Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for these loans may start at 60 percent and be as high as 700 percent.  CONTINUED


Report Insurance Fraud
 

TAMPA MEDICAL CLINIC RECORDS SEIZED, OWNERS ARRESTED

Investigators with the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, seized hundreds of records from a medical clinic and arrested the three owners on charges of organized scheme to defraud, insurance fraud and grand theft following a joint investigation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office, Economic Fraud Unit; with the assistance of Geico Insurance Co.

Medical Rehabilitation Center, at 3430 West Lambright St. was the focus of a four-month investigation into allegations that owners Lev Vybinov, 53, Boris Pismichenko, 50 and Greg Morkhalyov, 48, were responsible for accident victims being solicited and automobile insurance companies being billed as much as $100,000 for services that were not rendered. 

“It is estimated that auto insurance fraud adds as much as $240 to the average Florida family’s auto insurance premium each year,” said Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services.  “It is a crime we all pay for.” CONTINUED


 

Report Insurance Fraud
1-800-378-0445
Outside of Florida
850-413-3261
 

INSURANCE AGENT CHARGED WITH SELLING PHONY BONDS

An insurance agent is facing up to 75 years in prison on charges that she sold phony performance bonds and misappropriated more than $150,000 in insurance premiums from at least a dozen construction companies.

Jody Young, 42, owner of Young Agency, Inc., formerly located at 9731 SW 11th St., Pembroke Pines, turned herself in this morning to investigators with the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud.  She was booked into the Broward County Jail on charges of organized fraud, diversion or misappropriation of insurance premiums and uttering forged instruments.  Bond is set at $35,000. CONTINUED