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*Consumer Alert* CFO Jeff Atwater Warns Consumers about Unclaimed Property Scam

3/6/2012

Contact: Alexis Lambert
(850) 413-2842
 
TALLAHASSEE—Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today warned consumers about an emerging scam related to the retrieval of unclaimed property.  A company calling themselves The Florida Department of Financial Restitution has been contacting consumers claiming to be on contract with CFO Atwater’s Department of Financial Services and offering to reunite them with unclaimed property for an upfront fee of $600.  
 
There is no legal entity named The Florida Department of Financial Restitution.  Citizens who were contacted by the scam and asked to pay $600 to recover unclaimed property actually had no unclaimed property being held by the department. 
 
“These scam artists are trying to defraud consumers out of their hard-earned dollars by using deceitful practices and peddling a service that my department offers free of charge,” CFO Jeff Atwater said.  “Last year, the Bureau of Unclaimed Property returned a record amount—$209,936,000—to Floridians, and I urge consumers to check FLTreasureHunt.org to see if they have unclaimed property waiting for them.”
 
Consumers who are contacted by this company are encouraged to contact the department’s Division of Consumer Services by calling 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236) to report the scam.  Consumers should not agree to this offer, sign a contract or send any money to the Florida Department of Financial Restitution.
 
Currently, the Chief Financial Officer holds unclaimed property accounts valued at more than $1 billion, mostly from dormant accounts in financial institutions, insurance and utility companies, securities and trust holdings. In addition to money and securities, unclaimed property includes tangible items such as watches, jewelry, coins, currency, stamps, historical objects and other miscellaneous articles from abandoned safe deposit boxes. 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.
 
Consumers can search for unclaimed property by accessing the department’s website at www.FLTreasureHunt.org or by calling (888) 258-2253 or (850) 413-5555.
 
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services including the Division of Insurance Fraud.  CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.