Volume 8 Number 14 April 8, 2011
Dear Fellow Floridians:
This week I had the opportunity to engage with Floridians on Twitter in my first Twitter Townhall meeting on auto insurance fraud. The townhall was scheduled for 6-6:30 p.m., but due to the constant stream of questions received I stayed on longer to answer as many as I could. Out of all who engaged in the townhall, I was able to answer 87 percent of participants' questions. I found the townhall to be extremely valuable as I was able to address concerns from my fellow Floridians all over the state, answer questions from both sides of the issue, and receive important feedback. Twitter is an important platform we can use as public servants to disseminate information and engage those we serve. Through social media tools, we can promote transparency and remove the barrier that separates Floridians from their elected representatives. It also allows for everyone to share their opinions and influence public policy. If you were not able to join me during the townhall, here is a link to view the questions and answers: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/PressOffice/Townhall/Twitter-Townhall.htm.
I look forward to engaging you on different topics during future Twitter Townhall meetings!
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
CFO Jeff Atwater participated in a staged accident demonstration in Tampa on Thursday hosted by Allstate and the Tampa Police Department. The event showcased several types of staged auto accidents used in insurance fraud scams. Florida currently has three of the top five cities nationally for questionable medical claims associated with staged accidents –Tampa, Miami and Orlando. CFO Atwater also met with two individuals who recently received rewards from the Division of Insurance Fraud for providing information that directly led to arrests and convictions in two insurance fraud schemes.
“Today’s staged accident demo was a great interpretation of the very real PIP fraud scams that happen on Florida’s streets every day, putting all motorists in danger and scamming Floridians out of their hard earned money,” said CFO Atwater. “While these types of scams continue so will the increases in insurance premiums for every honest Floridian with a car in the driveway.”
“I was honored to meet with two recipients of our Anti-Fraud Reward Program who stepped up and provided tips to my Division of Insurance Fraud that led to the arrest and conviction of eight criminals and the closure of three accident clinics in the Tampa area. Their brave actions help every Floridian who pays more than they should for insurance premiums.”
Anyone with information about suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0455. Individuals who provide tips can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $250,000 to approximately 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program.
In a continuing effort to implement new strategies to combat insurance fraud, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater on Tuesday launched the “Most Wanted” insurance fraud website, http://www.myfloridacfo.com/pressoffice/mostwanted, to engage Floridians in the search for scammers who have eluded law enforcement. The website will feature three individuals per quarter who are wanted by the CFO’s Division of Insurance Fraud or State Fire Marshal on charges ranging from organized scheme to defraud to arson.
“Insurance fraud costs the average Florida family between $400 and $700 a year in increased premiums, and I want your help bringing the ‘most wanted’ insurance fraud scammers to justice,” said CFO Jeff Atwater. “Together we can get these crooks off the street, decrease your insurance premiums and put money back in your pocket through our insurance fraud reward program.”
This quarter CFO Atwater wants your help locating:
Anyone with information about these or any other incidents of suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0455. Individuals who provide tips can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $250,000 to approximately 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program.
At a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Florida CFO Jeff Atwater sponsored a resolution recognizing April as Financial Literacy Month. In celebration of Financial Literacy Month, CFO Atwater presented Clearwater-based VeteransPlus with the 2011 Champion of Financial Literacy Award for providing financial education to more than 4,000 military personnel and their families last year. Each year, the Florida Financial Literacy Council (FFLC) selects an individual or organization that possesses a strong commitment to financial literacy education in Florida to receive the Champion of Financial Literacy Award.
CFO Atwater also sponsored a resolution to designate April 17, 2011, as Military Family and Community Covenant Day. The Community Covenant program was created in 2008 to foster and sustain community partnerships to support service members and their families with the stresses of military life.
“There is no greater calling than serving one’s country, and VeteransPlus and Community Covenant programs offer incredibly valuable services to our men and women in uniform by empowering them with tools for financial prosperity and aiding their families through community partnerships,” said CFO Atwater. “I am honored to recognize their efforts to promote financial literacy and support our military personnel.”
There are currently more than 1.6 million veterans living in Florida. VeteransPlus provides one-on-one counseling with licensed, certified financial counselors to veterans, active-duty service members and their families. Their singular goal is to help establish a better quality of life and a sound financial future for the men and women who have served our country and their families.
CFO Atwater’s Department of Financial Services is hosting events throughout the state during the month of April as part of Financial Literacy Month. Topics include identity theft, hurricane preparedness, small business security, life insurance, and financial fraud along with first-time homebuyer workshops.
To find a schedule of events occurring throughout the state for Financial Literacy Month, log on to CFO Atwater’s Family Fiscal Fitness website at www.myfloridacfo.com/FamilyFiscalFitness. For more information about the Financial Literacy Council, visit www.myfloridamoney.com. For more information about the VeteransPlus program, visit http://www.veteransplus.org.
Florida CFO Jeff Atwater is urging Tampa residents whose homes and property were damaged last week by tornadoes to be on the lookout for unlicensed contractors, and to make sure they thoroughly understand all of the details before signing any contract with a contractor.
Consumer specialists with CFO Atwater’s Department of Financial Services have been helping callers through the CFO’s Storm Helpline, 1-800-22-STORM, and with representatives on the ground, including at the Hillsborough County Disaster Recovery Center.
“We know the losses have been devastating and this department is committed to helping affected homeowners and business owners make insurance claims and begin the road to recovery,” said Florida CFO Jeff Atwater. “We want to make sure that they are not taken advantage of or make financial decisions that may not be in their best interest. Residents must be on alert because there will be individuals looking to take advantage of this tragedy.”
CFO Atwater offered the following tips for those who will need to file an insurance claim:
More information regarding disaster-related insurance topics is available on the Department’s Disaster Response page at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Consumers/Storm. Consumers looking for tips on the rebuilding process, including storm-resistant construction and materials, should visit www.MySafeFloridaHome.com. The Storm Line, 1-800-22-STORM, is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT.
This column will regularly highlight the work of the department’s enforcement divisions. The Department of Financial Services’ Divisions of Agent and Agency Services and Legal Services took 170 disciplinary actions against insurance professionals and other entities last month: 12 revocations, 63 license denials, 45 administrative complaints, 14 suspensions, three license surrenders, one cease and desist, four probations, 28 fines totaling $46,050, costs of $3,000, and recovered more than $83,495 for consumers while conducting investigations.
More details on these actions can be found on the department’s Division of Agent and Agency Services website at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Agents. The Division of Agent and Agency Services licenses and regulates over 500,000 insurance agents, adjusters, and agencies. The Division of Legal Services provides legal counsel, advice, and representation to the regulatory, administrative, and support offices of the Chief Financial Officer and the State Fire Marshal.
A shocking 23 percent of individuals reported that over the past year, their household spent more than their income. Having a smart financial plan will ensure that Floridians won’t be living pay check to pay check, and struggling to make ends meet. Sticking to a budget is key to a successful financial plan.
Visit my financial calculators’ site to start planning out your monthly budget today! http://www.myfloridacfo.com/familyfiscalfitness/Calculators.aspx