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CFO Sink Creates ‘Safeguard Our Seniors’ Task Force

9/30/2008

CONTACT:   Tara Klimek
850-413-2842
Sink assembles diverse group to tackle solutions for protecting senior investors
 
TALLAHASSEE—Standing beside Mr. David Greene, an 81-year-old retired Army Master Sergeant and victim of annuity fraud, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink today announced that she has created the “Safeguard our Seniors” (SOS) Task Force to review and recommend solutions to better protect Florida seniors against financial fraud, with an immediate focus on annuity fraud.  The task force includes senior advocacy, legal, investigative, consumer, regulatory and industry representatives.
 
“Every year, my department investigates hundreds of bad actors who prey upon Florida seniors, luring them into inappropriate investments and draining their hard-earned savings,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services (DFS).  “I have created the ‘Safeguard Our Seniors’ Task Force to identify how our state can better protect seniors from these financial threats, starting with annuity fraud.”
 
An agent targeted David and his wife, who suffers from dementia and is currently in a nursing home.  Through a series of unsolicited home visits, the agent convinced David to cash out existing annuity policies and other savings.  The agent then convinced David to purchase a number of life insurance policies and annuity policies, from which David was told he could access funds if necessary.  Instead, the annuity payments are being utilized to pay the premiums on the previously purchased life insurance policies.  David was also convinced to take out a reverse mortgage, which the agent advised him was in his best interest in order to provide for his wife’s medical care.  More than $60,000 realized from the reverse mortgage was then used to purchase another whole life policy, at the urging of this immoral insurance agent.
 
“I trusted this professional to help me make wise investments,” said David Greene.  “Instead, I’m locked out of my savings and my financial future is anything but secure.”
 
Unfortunately, David’s experience is similar to so many other seniors.  Sink’s office recently recovered $300,000 for an 81-year-old woman from New Port Richey as well as nearly $325,000 for an 82-year-old senior living in Daytona who were both scammed into purchasing inappropriate annuity investments and called the department for help. 
 
“It is an outrage that some unscrupulous agents are taking advantage of older Floridians by selling them unsuitable and complex annuities investments,” said Lori Parham, Executive Director for AARP Florida.  “AARP is proud to work with CFO Sink and the ‘Safeguard Our Seniors’ Task Force to ensure Florida’s seniors are better protected.”
 
During the last 12 months, CFO Sink’s department has opened approximately 474 investigations on financial fraud committed against seniors, with 70 percent of cases related to annuity and life insurance transactions.  More than 2,770 consumers called the department’s helpline with questions or complaints about financial products, including annuities.
 
Recovering funds for senior victims is typically difficult and can take many months to prosecute.  Last session, CFO Sink advocated for legislation to increase the penalties against criminals who commit annuity fraud, but the Legislature failed to pass the bill.  Without stronger penalties, it is incredibly difficult for state attorneys to devote the resources necessary to prosecute these offenders.
 
The SOS Task Force includes the following members:
  • Tammy Teston, Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Florida Department of Financial Services
  • Lori Parham, Executive Director, AARP Florida
  • Jana McConnaughhay , Treasurer, Elder Law Section of the Florida Bar
  • Mark Ober, State Attorney, Hillsborough County
  • Jim Brodie, Legislative Director, Department of Veterans' Affairs 
  • Adora Obi Nweze, President of NAACP Florida
  • Jeffrey Helms, First Coast Financial Advisors
  • David Sisemore, Raymond James & Associates
  • Sean Stafford, Securities and Financial Services Industry
  • Curt Leonard, American Council of Life Insurers 
  • Bill Reilly, Chief of Securities Regulation, Office of Financial Regulation
  • Lieutenant Glen Hughes, Division of Insurance Fraud, Department of Financial Services
 
The SOS Task Force is slated to hold its first meeting in early October.
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. CFO Sink also serves as the State Fire Marshal.