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

Volume 3, Number 37, September 11, 2006

Today marks the fifth anniversary since this tragedy unfolded, and the pain of that day’s events is still with us.

On behalf of those who lost their lives that day, we must remain vigilant in safeguarding our country, our freedom and our democracy. And for those who fought bravely to save lives or lost loved ones, we must continue to fight against oppression and hatred.

To that end, we must support and pray for the men and women who are now on the front lines working to root out the evil that targeted us merely for being Americans.

We must remain unified in our resolve to never forget and to never let it happen again.
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 -- Tom Gallagher


GALLAGHER SUSPENDS AGENT FOR MISLEADING PARENTS TRYING TO SAVE FOR THEIR CHILDREN’S COLLEGE

Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher has suspended the licenses of an agent who misrepresented insurance policies to consumers, making them think they were saving money for their children’s college funding.

Franz Caville Wallace III, 54, of Jacksonville, agreed to a one-year suspension and restitution to settle a 13-count administrative complaint that found he had misled a dozen consumers into buying life insurance policies by telling them the policy was a “savings-type account“ that could later be used in its entirety to pay for college expenses. He failed to disclose that the only way to access the money was through an interest-bearing loan.

“These parents were looking for a way to invest in their children’s future, and this individual sought to steal their children’s dreams,” said Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services which conducted the investigation that led to the charges.

Gallagher also ordered Wallace to serve a year on probation following the one-year suspension and to pay $10,000 in restitution to the victims.

Investigators with the department’s Bureau of Investigation said Wallace induced customers to buy a so-called “flexible life accumulator” insurance policy, issued by the Southern Security Life Insurance Company. Wallace told the consumers that this product constituted a college savings plan for their children. In addition to failing to disclose that the only way to access the money was through a loan, Wallace also failed to disclose that a portion of their monthly premiums was being applied as premium for life insurance policies on their children.


 STRENGTHEN YOUR HOME THROUGH MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME

Interest in the My Safe Florida Home program has been tremendous! Over 42,000 completed applications have been received for free home inspections from Floridians throughout the state who want to strengthen their homes against the devastating effects of hurricanes. The need to create a culture of preparedness in Florida continues, and the My Safe Florida Home program is a significant step towards that goal.

The goal of completing 12,000 inspections within the first 12 twelve weeks of the program is on track. The program, through its partnership with the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), has held two training sessions for inspectors who are interested in working with the program. Inspections in the pilot project counties, which include Miami-Dade, Broward and Lee counties, are being scheduled. As the inspector workforce grows with qualified, drug-tested inspectors who have undergone background checks, the My Safe Florida Home program will expand into other hurricane-vulnerable areas throughout Florida. The program will also cap the number of inspections that can be performed in each county based on the county’s population, in order to prevent a handful of counties from receiving the majority of the free home inspections.

On September 13, contractors who perform retrofit work improvements will be able to apply to participate in the My Safe Florida Home program through the website, www.mysafefloridahome.com. Prior to participating, contractors must have a valid contractor’s license and complete a four-hour course on techniques and standards for effective wind-resistant retrofit improvements. The Department of Financial Services has been working with FLASH to offer these courses around the state over the next few months. The class, which is approved by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation for four continuing education credits, was first conducted on August 29th in St. Petersburg.

To learn more about the My Safe Florida Home program, please visit www.mysafefloridahome.com. The website continues to be the best resource for up-to-date information about the program, and homeowners can also learn about a wide variety of topics including tips on hiring a contractor and ways homeowners can strengthen their homes from the possibility of storm damage.


WANT TO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR INSURANCE PREMIUMS?

Many Floridians who live in a home built after 2002, or after 1994 in Miami-Dade or Broward counties, do not realize that their homes may qualify for one or more insurance discounts.

Tools and resources are available at www.mysafefloridahome.com to help you learn what you can to do strengthen your home against hurricanes and the discounts that may be available to you when you apply hurricane-resistant building techniques to your home.

Take the Florida Wind Insurance Incentives Survey
Provided by the Florida Department of Community Affairs at www.FloridaWindIncentives.org. (http://www.dca.state.fl.us/fdem/mitdb/index.cfm)

This web site allows Floridians in single-family homes or duplexes to see what insurance discounts are available based on certain building features that better protect the home or duplex from hurricane damage. Some features include improved roof shingles, hurricane clips or straps, shutter protection for windows and other construction techniques.

DISCLAIMER: The discounts presented at the end of the survey are given as a percentage of the wind portion of your total insurance premium. The wind portion of your premium is between 15 and 70 percent of your total premium, depending where you live in Florida.

Discount Sheet by Insurance Company
Provided by the Office of Insurance Regulation at https://apps.MyFloridaCFO.com/WindMitigation/   

Florida law requires insurance companies to offer homeowners discounts or credits for existing building features or home improvements that reduce damage and loss from hurricanes. Florida insurance companies are required to file these discounts with the Office of Insurance Regulation.
This website offers homeowners general discount information by insurance company and explains what range of discounts may be available. Discount information is available for an estimated 60 insurance companies, and updates continue to be posted.

DISCLAIMER: A new law passed during the 2006 Session requires the Office of Insurance Regulation to evaluate all discounts filed by insurance companies and to ensure insurance companies are providing eligible homeowners with applicable discounts by July 1, 2007. The discounts presented at the end of the survey are given as a percentage of the wind portion of your total insurance premium. The wind portion of your premium is between 15 and 70 percent of your total premium, depending where you live in Florida.

HOW TO APPLY FOR YOUR INSURANCE DISCOUNT

1. Contact your agent or your company directly to find out the specific items for which discounts are available.

2. Verify the amount of the discount for each item as it applies to YOUR policy. Example: Hurricane shutters will result in a 30 percent discount on the windstorm premium. The windstorm premium, in this example, is $300 of the total $600 annual premium. Therefore, the discount will equal a $90 annual savings on the premium.

3. Request the specific criteria that is needed to apply for and receive the discounts that are listed for your company. Example: Does the roof need to be inspected by a certified wind inspector? Do the shutters need to meet a specific wind-resistance rating?

4. Verify the documentation that needs to be submitted in order to apply for and receive the discounts. Example: photos of the items installed, proof of purchase and installation.

5. Verify to whom the documentation should be submitted. Be sure to keep copies of all documentation, the date submitted and the mailing verification information.

6. Request confirmation of when the discount will take effect.

7. Verify if the discount will be in the form of a premium discount, a credit to your premium balance or a refund on premium paid.
 


Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762

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