Consumer eViews
FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER TOM GALLAGHER'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 3, Number 3, January 16, 2006 

Today, I had the opportunity to join Governor Bush and more than 900 students, educators and community leaders in Orlando to celebrate and honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – a man whose vision continues to provide hope and inspiration to our nation today.

In 1963, to a crowd of more than 250,000 on the March on Washington, Dr. King said, “With this faith (in our dream), we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

His life’s work and message of peace broke down the barriers of racial segregation in our country and set the stage for building a society in which all people would have freedom, a sense of purpose and opportunity.

His life is also an inspiring reminder that one person can make a difference and that values, such as respect, honesty and compassion, matter.

Please take a moment to consider this great man and his influence in shaping our country and our future.


-- Tom Gallagher


RESIDENTS URGED TO 'VERIFY BEFORE YOU BUY'

The Department of Financial Services (DFS), through its Division of Consumer Services, offers a comprehensive consumer assistance program to help with insurance and financial issues. Asking a question or checking out the credentials of a financial specialist or company before a contract is signed can help avoid future problems.

In 2004, the DFS consumer services team conducted more than 1,200 outreach programs to help Floridians recover from four back-to-back hurricanes. Our homeowners insurance guides, hurricane preparedness seminars and materials are some of the tools for Floridians to help prepare financially, whether for hurricane season or for any important financial decision.

Regional offices are located conveniently around the state and conduct local workshops, participate in community events, provide radio and television call-in programs, and schedule special events on site to expand awareness about insurance and other financial issues affecting residents.

Specialists provide assistance for hurricane-related insurance claims, answer questions and provide financial information about a variety of topics, including mortgages, annuities and securities. These programs and materials are provided as a service by the state, free of charge.

Florida residents are not alone when facing decisions concerning insurance and financial matters. Consumer specialists with the Department of Financial Services are there to help you in person or over the phone. Visit our "Verify Before You Buy" web pages for more information and easy access to data about agents and companies.

Consumer specialists are available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, through the toll-free Florida helpline, 1-800-342-2762. And online at www.MyFloridaCFO.com, consumers can track a question or complaint, verify licensure of a financial or insurance company, broker or agent, and find out more about a wide variety of topics.


TRUE STORIES

The Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services, receives more than a thousand calls a day from Floridians who need help with insurance or financial issues. Here are four stories of Floridians who have thanked us for our assistance.

  • Her homeowners insurance premium was paid with a binder at closing but the agent kept the money and never paid her premium to the company.  Now hurricane damage has occurred and no insurance policy was in officially in force.  What can she do? DFS assisted by requesting that the company stand behind the actions of the agent.  Her hurricane damage was paid by the insurance company since she had a document evidencing coverage.
     

  • His car insurance premium rose by 100% - it doubled even though he had the same car, had not changed his residence, and no details had changed in the coverage.  What can he do?  DFS assisted by asking the insurance company to justify the increased premium.  The insurance company admitted that a mistake had been made when a code on his account reflected a vandalism claim that was actually a claim for hurricane damage from a tree that fell on his car.  The company apologized and restored his premium to the original amount.
     

  • Driving a company truck for a living, the Department of Transportation (DOT) cited the driver of the truck for a broken tail light.  The next time his personal auto insurance was renewed, the premium had risen significantly because of the ticket.  What can he do?  DFS assisted by inquiring if the ticket from the DOT for a broken light on his employer’s truck should impact the driver’s personal insurance.  The insurance company agreed to restore his premium to the original amount.
     

  • A family who spoke little English came into a regional office asking for help.  Having purchased a car several months before, the annual auto insurance premium was almost paid in full when the car insurance policy was purchased.  The company had them sign a premium finance agreement anyway to make monthly payments.  Two days later they paid the outstanding balance in full so the car insurance was paid for the year. Then the family began receiving late payment notices, notices of insurance cancellation and the bother of a collection agency.  What can they do?  After an investigation, it was determined that the money had never been applied to the debt, someone at the agency kept the family’s money and actually was making late monthly payments on the policy.  DFS assisted by having the company remove the collection activity on the family’s credit reports, give a refund of fees, and take action against the agent for not applying the payment to the premium debt.  

The next time you have a problem or a question about insurance, call us at 1-800-342-2762.


REPORT INSURANCE FRAUD

The Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) in the Florida Department of Financial Services was formed in 1976 by the Florida Legislature to investigate fraudulent automobile tort claims. In the early years, investigators had arrest powers but could not carry firearms. Today, the division investigates all types of insurance fraud crimes and investigators are armed, sworn state law enforcement officers. 

The Division of Insurance Fraud has five regions located throughout the state of Florida, each commanded by a law enforcement captain. One region is located in the north, one in central and three in south Florida.

Investigators are assigned to work general fraud cases, workers’ compensation fraud, medical and health-care fraud, and agent and company fraud. Areas of assignment may include: 

  • Insolvency  - Fraud committed by insurance companies that fail financially due to internal fraud by owners and corporate officers.
  • Unauthorized Entities - fraud, both criminal and civil, committed by insurance companies operating illegally in the state.
  • Health Care Fraud - focuses on organized medical and health care scams.
  • Workers’ Compensation - investigates employers for workers’ compensation premium fraud.
  • Public Employee Fraud  - investigates state and local government employees for workers’ compensation claimant fraud.

Additionally, insurance companies doing business in Florida must report suspected fraud to the division. Those reports are protected from civil liability, provided the information is reported in good faith.

A reward of up to $25,000 is offered for information leading to a conviction in insurance fraud cases. Visit the DIF web pages for fraud referral forms and more information at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/fraud.



Consumer Services HelpLine
(800) 342-2762