Volume 6 Number 41 October 9, 2009
This week I highlight our upcoming Unclaimed Property Auction, and urge Floridians to visit www.FLTreasureHunt.org to see if they have unclaimed property waiting for them. Our Department's Bureau of Unclaimed Property works hard to reunite owners, heirs and businesses with their property. And with Florida's families facing tough times, more and more people are visiting our website - I like to say it's the equivalent of looking under the couch cushions for extra change!
This week I also got a chance to preview some of the exciting items that we will be auctioning off later this month in Fort Lauderdale -- items like a 13-carat brilliant-cut diamond ring, a Longines diamond and platinum pocket watch, and a Rolex Submariner Oyster Perpetual watch. Over 40,000 items that have been sitting for years in unclaimed safe deposit boxes will be sold at our annual auction on October 24.
I’m proud that last fiscal year our Bureau of Unclaimed Property broke a record, reuniting citizens with over $173 million in unclaimed property, the most ever returned in one year. Please take the time to visit www.FLTreasureHunt.org and encourage your friends and family to do the same. You never know what treasure you could find!
State of Florida
Florida CFO Alex Sink on Tuesday asked Floridians to check for unclaimed property prior to her Bureau of Unclaimed Property’s Statewide Auction, an annual sale of unclaimed safe deposit box contents turned over to the state. The auction, which is open to the public, will be held October 24, 2009, in Ft. Lauderdale at the Embassy Suites Hotel. In the last three months, CFO Sink’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property has reunited 67,270 citizens with a total of more than $41 million.
“I encourage all Floridians to visit www.FLTreasureHunt.org and see what property they may have waiting,” said CFO Sink. “I am especially proud that in these tough economic times, our Bureau of Unclaimed Property has been able to return record amounts through a diligent, proactive, and business-like approach to seeking owners and responding to citizens.”
At the auction, more than 40,000 individual items, including jewelry, watches, and rare coins, with a minimum reserve value in excess of $500,000, will be sold. Featured items include a 13-carat brilliant-cut diamond ring, a Longines diamond and platinum pocket watch, and a Rolex Submariner Oyster Perpetual watch. A free catalog, along with details about the auction, is available at www.FLTreasurehunt.org. Participation in the auction is open to the public, but requires registration and a refundable $100 deposit. A public preview of all items will be held Friday, October 23.
Unclaimed money is deposited into the state school fund, where it is used for public education. There is, however, no statute of limitations, and citizens have the right to claim their property any time at no cost.
During Alex Sink’s tenure as CFO, the Bureau of Unclaimed Property has seen record returns, reuniting owners, heirs and businesses with more than one-third of all money returned since the beginning of the program, due largely to aggressive efforts to contact owners. CFO Sink’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property returned $173 million in unclaimed property for the 2008-2009 Fiscal Year -- the largest amount in state history. Since the program’s inception 48 years ago, the Bureau of Unclaimed Property has successfully reunited owners or relatives of deceased owners with more than $1.4 billion in unclaimed property held in Florida.
The Bureau of Unclaimed Property is currently holding 8.8 million accounts, mostly from dormant accounts in financial institutions, unclaimed utility deposits, insurance benefits, premium refunds, uncashed checks and trust accounts. It also holds watches, jewelry, coins, stamps and historical items from abandoned safe deposit boxes, some of which will be sold in October’s auction. Unclaimed property can be claimed for free at any time by the rightful owners or heirs by logging on to www.FLTreasureHunt.org or by calling the Bureau at 1-88-VALUABLE.
Florida CFO and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink on Monday recognized Fire Prevention Week 2009 by asking Floridians to take the necessary steps to safeguard against fires. During Fire Prevention Week, October 4-10, 2009, State Fire Marshal officials are participating in events across the state focusing on promoting fire safety and prevention for Florida residents.
“By working together and taking commonsense steps, Floridians can reduce the threat that fires pose to our property, forests, and even our lives,” said CFO Sink. “Many fire hazards go undetected, but by following a few simple steps, Floridians can help better protect their families and the firefighters sworn to help them.”
The Florida Cabinet recently passed a resolution sponsored by CFO Sink in support of Fire Prevention Week 2009. Last year, 179 deaths in Florida occurred as a result of fires. More than 1,200 citizens, including over 300 firefighters, were injured in fire-related incidents, and home and property damage from fires costs approximately $500 million. Forest and wildfires also contribute to thousands of acres burned each year.
“Many fires can be prevented just by following a few, simple rules, which is why fire safety education is a must for every citizen,” CFO Sink continued. “I urge Floridians to participate in Fire Prevention Week activities in their area, so that together, we can reduce the threat posed by fires.”
Some quick fire safety tips for Floridians to keep in mind during Fire Prevention Week:
As State Fire Marshal, CFO Sink aims to educate citizens and her State Fire Marshal Division holds numerous educational seminars and training throughout the year. The Bureau of Fire Prevention annually inspects more than 16,000 public and private buildings including public schools, university facilities and adult living facilities; enforcing regulations regarding the handling of explosives materials, boiler safety, and fire system installation contractors to ensure public safety.
Earlier today, Floridians gathered at the Florida State Fire College to pay tribute to Florida’s fallen firefighters and their families. The annual Florida Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service, hosted by State Fire Marshal Alex Sink and the Florida Joint Council of Fire and Emergency Service Organization, serves as a time of remembrance for firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect and serve. Please take time today to remember the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to keep us safe.
This week Florida CFO Alex Sink was presented with the County Champion Award by the Florida Association of Counties (FAC). The award is presented to select state leaders who champion issues and policies that support local government and preserve home rule.
“The future of Florida’s economy will depend on the economic health of our counties, which is why we must do everything we can at the state level to work together and foster our local governments’ diverse needs and exciting innovations,” said CFO Sink. “I’m humbled to be recognized for championing issues that can help those who serve closest to the people provide needed services and build a stronger economic foundation for Florida.”
The award was presented to Sink for her continued support of Florida’s counties, including her outspoken opposition to the so-called Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR), which if passed would have a crippling effect on local governments' ability to provide critical services and respond to demands from the citizens of Florida. CFO Sink took the time to speak out against TABOR during the 2007 Taxation Budget Reform Commission meetings and again last year writing a letter to House and Senate leaders warning of the consequences TABOR would have on Florida’s financial future.
“CFO Sink has been a strong advocate on behalf of counties,” said FAC President and Alachua County Commissioner Rodney Long, “She recognizes the important role local governments play in our lives, and the need for state and local governments to work together for Floridians.”
In addition, Sink has worked tirelessly to protect county tax dollars that are held by the State Board of Administration to ensure dollars were protected and safeguards were put in place to protect county investments into the future. Finally, Sink was also recognized for her efforts in Washington D.C. to help counties suffering from the credit crisis by allowing the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF) to be extended to local governments.
The award was presented to CFO Sink in Tallahassee at the Joint Presidents Meeting where Presidents of the Florida Association of Counties, Florida League of Cities, and Florida School Boards Association were convened. Sink exemplifies a County Champion – someone who recognizes the need for all governments to work together and acknowledges the important role counties have in ensuring the citizens of Florida have the critical services and quality of life they demand.
With 13 divisions and many programs available to serve Floridians, there is much to learn about financial services from the home page of the Department of Financial Services. Links for consumers, insurance agents and adjusters, employers and state vendors will help you find the information you need. The slide-down list on the left gives a detailed view of the site, and the buttons on the right will lead you to our special programs.
In order to continue to improve our service to you, we would like to know what you think about our current web site. Your opinion is important to us and it will only take a few minutes to complete the questionnaire. Participation is voluntary and anonymous. Thank you for helping us improve our services. Please begin by clicking on the Internet Survey.
Florida CFO Alex Sink on Wednesday sent a letter to Investment Advisory Council (IAC) members outlining her three proposals to improve the oversight of the State Board of Administration (SBA) and protect Floridians’ retirement security. CFO Sink informed the IAC Chair that she plans to attend the IAC meeting in December to personally present her oversight reforms to the Council.
“For more than a year, I have advocated for SBA reforms based on my personal experience as a business leader and the recent study of governance best practices that would strengthen the oversight of the SBA, in order to protect the $110 billion pension fund so many Floridians depend on for a secure retirement,” CFO Sink wrote. “In my opinion, the SBA governance structure is long overdue for a change. I look forward to presenting these oversight measures and answering any questions members of the IAC may have at your next meeting.”
At last week's Cabinet meeting, CFO Sink recommended reforms to strengthen and enhance the oversight of the state’s public pension fund, including a proposal to expand the Board of Trustees. Her motions were delayed by the other two members of the SBA Board, Governor Crist and Attorney General McCollum, who requested that the IAC review her proposed reforms and make recommendations.
Across the country, the Census 2010 campaign is underway. Everyone is encouraged to participate in the Census and be counted, but you should use caution when giving out personal information. Unfortunately, scam artists may take this opportunity to commit some type of fraud or identity theft. The Department of Financial Services warns residents to be aware of scammers looking to cash in on your personal information, or gain entry into your home.
“The 2010 Census is a very important event, but it is no time for consumers to relax when it comes to safeguarding their personal information." said Kevin Jackson, chief investigator in the Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency, "Don’t get fooled by some con artist imitating a census worker.”
The census questionnaires will be arriving in mailboxes in March 2010. Soon after that, census workers will be knocking on doors to help those who didn’t return a census form, or to collect additional information. It is imperative that everyone fills out a census form.
Floridians can protect themselves from scams by remembering these tips:
For more information on how to protect yourself from fraud and identity theft, visit the Department’s Web site at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) Lieutenant Doreen Rivera Rapp this week received a Certificate of Achievement - Honorable Mention Award at the 2009 Outstanding Latino/a Educator (OLE) Awards ceremony at the University of South Florida (USF). This award is given to Latino/a USF students who demonstrate outstanding performance in academics, scholarly activity, and service to the profession of education.
Lieutenant Rivera Rapp is currently a doctoral candidate at USF pursuing a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction, with an emphasis in Adult Education. While working full-time with DIF, Lieutenant Rivera Rapp has managed to maintain an outstanding 3.9 grade point average and is currently working on her dissertation.
Congratulations to Lieutenant Doreen Rivera Rapp!
Florida CFO Alex Sink announced on Thursday that her Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) arrested a Miami insurance agent for the second time in less than a month for stealing more than $14 million by submitting thousands of fraudulent premium finance contracts for fictitious policyholders. Peris also had his insurance licenses suspended by CFO Sink’s Department of Financial Services.
Jose V. Peris, 52, of Miami is the owner and president of Insurance Force Corp., d/b/a FED USA Insurance Agency. Peris submitted over 3,800 bogus premium finance contracts to numerous premium finance companies. Currently, over $7 million remains unrecovered and Peris is facing multiple counts of first degree organized scheme to defraud.
Peris was initially arrested on September 18, 2009 by DIF investigators for charges involving theft from a premium finance company. Today, Peris was arrested for an additional charge of organized fraud in the first degree for actions involving three other premium finance companies. If convicted on all charges, Peris faces up to 60 years in prison.
“This agent lined his own pocket by taking advantage of the trust that was placed in him, and he will be held accountable for all of his actions,” said CFO Sink. “I applaud the quick action of our investigators to uncover this scheme and bring this individual to justice.”
Based on an investigation by CFO Sink’s Division of Agent and Agency Services, the Department of Financial Services also issued an Emergency Order of Suspension of the insurance licenses held by Peris.
The Department’s investigations into Peris and his insurance agency were based on allegations that Peris lied about premium financing contracts for fictitious Citizens Property Insurance Corporation policies. ABCO Premium Finance provided information to investigators that Peris was creating bogus contracts, and in the course of the investigation it was found that other premium finance companies were also defrauded.
CFO Sink urges anyone who suspects insurance fraud to report it to her Division of Insurance Fraud at http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/fraud or by calling the Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. Consumers who have questions about premium financing can call CFO Sink’s Consumer Helpline at 1-850-413-3089 or 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (877-693-5236) or get information by visiting www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
Since the first workshop in January 2009, CFO Sink and the Department of Financial Services have held 47 Florida Housing Help workshops and helped more than 7,500 homeowners.
To keep up with upcoming events, or for information and resources relating to foreclosure issues, visit http://www.myfloridacfo.com/FloridaHousingHelp. To request a Florida Housing Help workshop, call 850-413-3089 or 1-877-My-FL-CFO.
Florida Housing Help events:
Saturday, October 10 from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Florida Housing Help CFCC Ewers Century Center, Klein Conference Facility, 3001 SW College Road, Ste. 205, Ocala
Friday, October 16 from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. Florida Housing Help The Cultural Center of Charlotte County, 2280 Aaron Street, Port Charlotte
Wednesday, October 21 from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Florida Housing Help Joseph P. D'Alessandro Office Complex (State Building), 2295 Victoria Ave., Fort Myers
Wednesday, October 28 from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. War on Poverty-Florida (inside Gateway Mall)
Gateway Mall, 5196-A Norwood Ave, Jacksonville
Saturday, November 7 from 10:00 – 4:00 p.m. Florida Housing Help Englewood Neighborhood Center, 6123 La Costa Drive, Orlando
All Floridians should prepare for a disaster by having their disaster kit and important documents protected and ready to transport in case of an evacuation. But what do you do after the disaster? What should you do if you return home to find your property has been flooded?
Properly preparing for your return home after an evacuation will makeit safer to inspect and clean up your property if damages have occurred . Before you travel home, make sure local officials have declared it is safe to return and that you have the supplies you will need.
Remember to verify a contractor’s license before you hire him or her to make repairs. Contact your insurance company before making repairs and take pictures of your property before clean up begins.
For more information, visit the Department’s Web site at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
CFO Sink, the Governor and the other members of the Cabinet have designated October 5 - 11 as Financial Planning Week, and are encouraging all Floridians to evaluate their finances and plan for the future.
Financial planning is the process of meeting your life goals through the proper management of your finances. Life goals can include buying a home, saving for your child’s education, or planning for retirement. According to the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, the financial planning process consists of six important steps, which involve gathering relevant financial information, examining your current financial status, and devising a plan to meet your long-term and short-term goals.
Financial planning provides direction and meaning to your financial decisions, and allows you to understand how each of your decisions affects the other areas of your finances. For example, buying a particular investment product could either help you pay off your mortgage faster, or significantly delay your retirement.
By viewing each financial decision as part of a whole, you can consider its short-term and long-term effects on your life goals. Financial planning allows you to more easily adapt to life changes, and feel secure that your goals are on track.