Agents should routinely verify the licensure of the companies for which they're selling. If you suspect an entity is not authorized or licensed to transact insurance in Florida, from Florida or with residents of Florida, please notify our office. Report suspected unlicensed activity. Call 877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236).
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During 2014, my dedicated team here at the Department of Financial Services recovered and returned more than $287 million to Floridians. Since I took office as CFO, my highest priority is to make sure that your hard-earned money stays with you, and my team works every day on your behalf to return back to you what's rightfully yours.
These returns were made possible by investigative and consumer-driven efforts led by our Divisions of Agent & Agency Services and Consumer Services, along with the Bureau of Unclaimed Property.
When our Division of Agent & Agency Services investigates allegations of illegal conduct by Florida's licensed insurance professionals, they sometimes find that money is owed back to consumers that had been improperly collected. Either by proactively securing a settlement agreement with the licensee involved, or by advocating for repayment directly from the insurance company on behalf of the consumer, the division works to ensure that the consumer is made whole. Last year, they were successfully able to secure more than $1 million through this process, and more than a third of this amount was returned to Florida's seniors.
Our Division of Consumer Services operates our Consumer Helpline that stands ready and able to assist consumers with insurance-related questions and concerns. Last year, they handled nearly 121,000 calls from Floridians who requested the department's assistance on an insurance claim-related matter. By serving as a liaison between the consumer and the insurance company when such concerns arise, the department was able to secure the return of more than $25.2 million that was not initially paid out by the insurer. This money was returned to nearly 5,600 consumers.
In one such instance, a consumer contacted the Helpline for assistance in resolving a claim filed with his insurance company for water damage to his home. The consumer felt he was not paid the required benefits under his policy, and the division contacted the insurer on the consumer's behalf to determine why the claim was not paid. The division's helpline experts determined that the insurance company failed to pay the consumer the undisputed amount within 90 days, which is a policyholder's right as outlined in the Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights -- a measure I supported last year that requires insurers to provide factual information about the claims process when a claim is filed.
As a result of their involvement on the consumer's behalf, the division was able to recover more than $80,000 for the consumer. In addition, the division referred the claim to the Office of Insurance Regulation for further review due to the insurance company's violation of law.
When monetary and tangible property accounts held within financial institutions lie dormant for a period of more than five years, those accounts are turned over to the department as unclaimed property. Our Bureau of Unclaimed Property works to reconnect Floridians with these funds or property they may not have known existed, or may have forgotten about. Through proactive outreach efforts, they were able to pay out 384,036 individual claims, which resulted in unclaimed property returns of nearly $261 million. These returns ranged from money and securities to the contents of safety deposit boxes, which included watches, jewels and historical artifacts. All unclaimed property accounts are returnable to the rightful owner, or the legally entitled heir, at anytime and at no charge to the consumer.
I am proud of what we accomplished during 2014, but we're just getting started. I look forward to even greater things in the year ahead.
For more information on these programs and how the Florida Department of Financial Services can help you claim what is rightfully yours, please visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida