Volume 6 Number 32 August 7, 2009
It is estimated that insurance fraud costs Americans more than $80 billion each year - and this cost gets passed down to you, the consumer, in the form of higher insurance premiums.
That is why the work of our Department's Division of Insurance Fraud is so important. Our Division of Insurance Fraud is a sworn law enforcement agency that leads the nation in the recovery of insurance fraud-related losses and ranks second in the nation in the number of insurance fraud arrests. Just this week, investigators made three more arrests in a high-profile insurance fraud scheme out of Jacksonville, showing once more that those who try to defraud everyday Floridians won't get away with it.
Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime: it costs businesses and it costs you. I commend the dedication of all the investigators in our Division of Insurance Fraud, who work hard everyday to crack down on criminals, protecting your interests and your wallet.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
Florida CFO Alex Sink and State Attorney Angela Corey today announced the arrests of Scott Cates, Vice President of Operations for Lee and Cates Glass, Inc., for Cates’ involvement in a scheme that resulted in over 1,300 fraudulent insurance claims. Scott Cates and Jennifer Lamunyon Cribb, a former employee of Lee and Cates Glass, were arrested today after investigators found that four Lee and Cates Glass, Inc. stores located in Jacksonville allegedly overbilled numerous insurance companies more than $540,000 on over 1,300 separate fraudulent insurance claims. David Williamson, an assistant manager with Lee and Cates Glass, was also arrested this afternoon.
An investigation by CFO Sink’s Division of Insurance Fraud revealed that employees at Lee and Cates Glass Company stores allegedly overbilled windshields and associated parts by billing insurance companies for a more expensive dealer windshield but installing a less expensive substitute. Ten employees of Lee and Cates Glass, including Vice President of Operations Scott Cates, have been arrested since April 2009 as part of this investigation. Today’s arrests were successful because of the partnership between the Division of Insurance Fraud and the State Attorney’s Office of the Fourth Judicial Circuit.
“Our insurance fraud investigators are committed to cracking down on those who attempt to take advantage of Floridians,” said CFO Sink. “Fraud doesn’t just hurt the insurance companies – it inflicts real financial pain on families, businesses and communities.”
“We very much appreciate the financial and investigative support that CFO Sink has provided to us and we intend to aggressively prosecute these cases,” said State Attorney Angela Corey.
Scott Cates has been charged with scheming to defraud, conduct of or participation in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity and three counts of conspiracy to commit fraud. Jennifer Lamunyon Cribb has been charged with scheming to defraud and presenting a false insurance claim. Additional arrests are expected.
The Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), a sworn law enforcement agency, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. Depending on the estimated loss amount, the department will pay up to $25,000 for information directly leading to an arrest and conviction. Anyone with information about this or any other suspected insurance fraud is asked to call the department's Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445 or log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com/fraud.
Insurance Consumer Advocate Sean Shaw, Deputy CFO Tammy Teston and Division of Agent and Agency Services’ Licensing Bureau Chief Matt Tamplin this week attended the 2009 Florida Insurance Examinations Review Workshop in Orlando. As Florida’s CFO, Alex Sink licenses insurance agents and appoints the Insurance Consumer Advocate.
The four-day workshop, held Monday through Thursday of this week, brought together a diverse group of insurance experts from the private and public sectors to review and revise insurance licensing examinations. This workshop is held on an annual basis to review existing questions with an eye toward making the examinations fair and equitable to all who take them. Each question is thoroughly reviewed and questions are removed or revised to enhance the validity of the examinations.
The goal of the workshop is to ensure that applicants who are successful in taking the examinations have the minimum entry level knowledge to transact insurance or adjust claims in Florida in a professional, ethical manner. Workshop participants also worked to ensure that the examinations did not hold any type of unintentional bias towards minority groups.
Insurance Consumer Advocate Sean Shaw, middle, with workshop participants
Florida CFO Alex Sink today urged Florida’s self-employed individuals to take advantage of the August open-enrollment period that allows single-group employers, sole proprietors, independent contractors and others to obtain health insurance or switch plans on a guaranteed-issue basis.
“This is critical information for self-employed Floridians because they are guaranteed coverage under Florida law, but only if they enroll this month,” said CFO Sink. “I am reaching out to our state’s small business owners, who are the backbone of Florida’s economy, and urging them to take advantage of this open-enrollment period.”
From August 1 through 31, 2009, insurers and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) that write small-group policies must offer basic and standard coverage to self-employed Floridians without regard to health status. Policies written or renewed in August have a plan start date of October 1, 2009.
Applicants must meet all of the conditions and criteria established by law, and provide documentation verifying the operation of an active business, including tax forms, license information and business receipts, per Florida Statute 627.6699(3)(u).
The Small Group Carrier List is available on the Department of Financial Services’ web site at: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Consumers/Guides/Health/smallGroupMarketCarriers.htm. For plan options, go to: http://www.floir.com/lh_fr/is_LHFR_Small_Emp_Benefit_Plan.aspx.
In addition to basic and standard policies, coverage options for employers include health savings accounts (HSAs) or health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). HSAs, which operate like Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), allow people to save their own money in a tax-free account for use on health-related expenses. If the money is not spent, it rolls over annually and accumulates until the policyholder reaches age 65, at which time the money can be used for any purpose.
A Health Insurance guide and Small Business Owners’ Insurance guide are available on CFO Sink’s web site. For further assistance in enrolling in a health care plan, Floridians should call the Department of Financial Services’ Consumer Helpline at 1-877-My-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236) or visit MyFloridaCFO.com.
Florida CFO Alex Sink and the Financial Action Team in partnership with Wealth Watchers, Inc. hosted a Florida Housing Help (FHH) workshop last Saturday in Jacksonville to help Floridians facing foreclosure. Forbes magazine has ranked Jacksonville No. 1 as America’s next foreclosure capital. For the complete story, go to http://www.forbes.com/2008/10/20/foreclosure-cities-ten-forbeslife-cx_mw_1020realestate.html.
Over 110 people attended the event where they heard from a panel of experts on the available community resources for foreclosure assistance, and met with HUD-certified counselors and lenders. Panelists educated consumers on the loan modification process, foreclosure terminology, bankruptcy, and forced-placed homeowner insurance.
One consumer commented on the panelists’ knowledge by saying, “All presenters provided excellent information regarding their agency and services available to the community."
Several consumers expressed their gratefulness for the opportunity to speak face to face with counselors and lenders. One participant shared her feelings and said she was “very comfortable and relaxed and didn't feel downgraded." Future Florida Housing Help workshops taking place will be held on:
TOMORROW, August 8: Deltona City Hall, 2345 Providence Blvd., Deltona 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Saturday, August 22: Enoch Davis Community Center, 1111 18th Ave. South, St. Petersburg 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
For more information on Florida Housing Help workshops throughout the state, visit: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Consumers/OutReach/EventsbyCategory.asp
or call the Consumer Helpline at (850) 413-3089 or toll free at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236). You can also refer to our Foreclosure & Mortgage Fraud Prevention Fact Sheet for more information.
Credit scores have always been important when buying a house, but you may not realize that credit scores are also important when purchasing insurance.
While it is legal for insurers to check a person’s credit, it is a requirement that they inform consumers their credit score will be used not only to determine if they are granted or denied insurance, but also to determine the rate. However, the insurer cannot refuse or non-renew a policy based solely on credit score information. Insurers can also look at other things such as age of the home, dates of replacements/upgrades, pets on the premises, location and occupancy of the home, and the claims experience of the applicant.
Remember that your credit score can be affected by the number of inquiries made to your credit report, not having any established credit, and the number of credit cards carried.
To avoid any problems with your credit score, follow these tips for ways to improve your credit history:
If an insurer does decide to cancel or non-renew a policy due to information found on your credit report, they must provide you with a copy of the report or contact information for the reporting agency.
For more information, please visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com or call our Consumer Helpline at (850) 413-3089 or toll free at 1 (877) MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).
A new baby touches every facet of a family’s life, including their finances. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more babies are born in August than in any other month. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) suggests these steps to help new parents protect their growing family.
Get smart about your insurance needs! For more information about auto, home, life and health insurance options - as well as tips for choosing the coverage that is right for you and your family - visit www.InsureUonline.org.
CFO Alex Sink is urging Floridians to make needed hurricane preparations in light of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) updated hurricane season forecast released this week.
NOAA predicts a 90% chance of a near or below normal season, with 7-11 named storms and 3-6 hurricanes. 1-2 of these hurricanes are forecast to peak at Category 3 strength or greater (111 mph sustained winds or higher). Weak to moderate El Nino conditions (warmer than average water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific) are expected to continue through this hurricane season.
Don’t wait for a storm to be headed your way. Take these steps now to be prepared:
Making sure you, your family, and your property are prepared will not only save you money, it could save your life.
For more information on ways to prepare your home and your family for a disaster, visit the CFO’s Disaster Preparedness Web page at http://www.myfloridacfo.com/consumers/Storm/tips.htm.
One easy way to save money is to make the most of what you already have, and for many families, that can be as simple as using the freezer. Here are a few ideas for using your freezer to get real cash savings.
Look for buy one get one free deals, and freeze half. This is especially great for everyday staples like bread and orange juice that freeze and defrost well.
Buy summer staples while they’re still cheap for winter recipes. Many people enjoy recipes that call for strawberries, blueberries and peaches well into fall and winter, but when they aren’t in season, this produce is both hard to find and expensive.
Stock up on your favorites now, store in freezer bags, and simply defrost before using later in the year.
Cook family-sized portions, and freeze the leftovers in single portions for individual lunches. If you love lasagna and other big-meal entrees but don’t have a crowd to cook for, make it anyway and then portion the leftovers into containers that can easily be packed and re-heated at the office. This will be delicious and also less costly than eating lunch out!
Use ice cube trays to freeze pesto sauces, extra red wine, and homemade stocks. Use these ingredients to rev up future dinners.
Double your recipe. Instead of making one meatloaf, make two and freeze one – then, on a busy night, dinner just needs to be put in the oven.
Disclaimer: eViews financial information is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional financial advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified professional before taking any course of action that may affect your financial or legal rights.
Last week we described the Cash for Clunkers program. As you all may know, this program has been hugely successful. It’s great to know people care to trade in their old inefficient cars and trucks for more fuel efficient vehicles. The original $1 billion, which was supposed to extend through November, was so successful that the funding was essentially depleted as of late last week.
However, in some very good news, the U.S. Senate voted 60-37 on Thursday night to pump an additional $2 billion into the popular program. This will allow consumers to keep trading in gas guzzlers for fuel-efficient vehicles. Administration officials have estimated the money will help fund the sales of another 500,000 vehicles and may last into Labor Day. With this new infusion of money, don’t tarry, because supporters say this will be the last extension. Once the money is gone, so will the program be gone.
Interestingly, there is a side benefit to this program. Some Florida car dealers are particularly pleased because people are coming to the dealerships with cars that are not actually “junkers” so don’t qualify for the rebate program. However, dealers have been able to pay more than the dealer rebates and so these vehicles will go on the car lots and sold as “pre-owned”. So in case you’re not interested in buying a new car or truck, now is the time where you might find a fuel-efficient used car to buy. Overall, Florida and the nation will win as people transition into using cars and trucks that consume less fuel.