My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Florida’s tourism attractions, pleasant climate, favorable tax structure and booming economy have created an influx of consumers who choose to call Florida home. Unfortunately, this increase in residents has also led to an increase in dishonest scammers who look to defraud the financial assets of hard-working Floridians. National Consumer Protection Week 2016

This week is Consumer Protection Week, which offers a prime opportunity to remind all consumers of the importance of remaining on guard.

Our Department of Financial Services offers a bevy of resources that can help you do just that. Through our Division of Consumer Services website you can find tip sheets and tricks to protect your information on the Internet, information and warnings about new and changing scams we’re seeing in the field, and information on what to do if dreaded financial fraud ever finds its way to your front door.

Here are a few simple, yet effective consumer tips to help protect your hard-earned money:

  • Do your homework: Fully research any financial or insurance product before purchase;
  • Seek a second or third opinion: Inquire with several professionals to find one who listens and understands your individual goals;
  • Verify before you buy: Verify the license and insurance of the company or individual you plan to conduct business with;
  • Get everything in writing: Request written information that outlines all contractual agreements;
  • Read before you sign: Read and ask questions to make sure you fully understand the documents you are signing; and
  • Contact us: If you suspect questionable business practices or potential fraud, say something by contacting us at 1-877-693-5236, toll free.

Always remember that the toll-free hotline listed above can be used when you suspect fraud, but also for help on any insurance-related matter that may arise. In the last five years, we’ve helped 88,000 of your fellow Floridians and helped recover more than $138 million on their behalf.

You may not need us now, this week or even next month, but jot the number down and know that we’re here for you when the day comes that you do need to give us a ring.

Sincerely,

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


CFO Atwater presenting Fire Service AwardsCFO Atwater Presents Fire Service Awards

On Tuesday, March 1, Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater presented the 2016 Florida Fire Service Awards to honor those in the fire service community who have demonstrated excellence in their profession. The reception was held on the 22nd floor of the Florida Capitol, and award recipients were joined by their families, friends, fire service professionals and members of the Florida Legislature. Ringing of the bell

Representing fire service organizations across Florida, the honorees included:

Jeffrey Brown - Jacksonville, Fire Investigator of the Year
Stephen Bunting - Plantation, Volunteer Firefighter of the Year
Jared Dorrier - Withlacoochee, Forestry Firefighter of the Year
David Downey - Miami, Fire Chief of the Year
Ralph Everage, Jr. - Crestview, Fire Service Instructor of the Year
William Johnson - Palm Beach County, Chad Reed Emergency Manager of the Year
John King - Milton, Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year
Ramon Perez - Miramar, Fire Marshal of the Year
Alfred Pulvirenti - Palm Beach Gardens, Career Firefighter of the Year
Eloy Ricardo on behalf of North Collier Fire Training Center – Naples, Florida Fire Service Training & Education Provider of the Year
Katherine Szostak - Naples, Fire Inspector of the Year
Doug Watler - Deerfield Beach, Professional Firefighter of the Year

Cabinet presentation to Fire Service Award recipients

The ceremony continued the following morning with the Ringing of the Bell to honor Florida's fallen firefighters and presentations to each fire service award recipient during the Cabinet meeting.

How it works: Personal Injury Protection FraudFraud Prevention Month

Every day in Florida, fake auto accidents result in millions of dollars in fake insurance claims being paid. Who pays for these claims? You do—in the form of higher insurance premiums. Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud is a serious crime with consequences. When someone commits auto insurance fraud, you pay the price. Auto insurance fraud can cost you and your family hundreds of dollars a year in higher insurance costs.

The Division of Insurance Fraud has eight dedicated PIP squads and more than 40 detectives to rein in these crimes and arrest the persons involved in fraud. Florida now has dedicated prosecutors throughout the state to handle PIP fraud, and the courts are sentencing persons convicted of insurance fraud to prison. Our goal is to promote a level of consistency in prosecutions to take a tougher stand against fraud, and impose harsher sanctions, including jail, fines, and licensing sanctions.

We are working to increase public awareness of insurance fraud, the seriousness of this crime and its impact on the community as a whole, and educate people about the potential penalties they face for participating in this activity. The Division of Insurance Fraud will pay up to $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of persons involved in insurance fraud.

If you see something, say something. Call the Florida Department of Financial Services Insurance Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445 to report a crime.

Women's History MonthMarch is Women's History Month

Gwendolyn Sawyer CherryEach week this month, we are featuring prominent American women leaders and highlighting their contributions to our state and country.

Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry

A woman of many firsts, Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry served as Dade County’s first black female attorney. Not only did she make strides for black women working in legal professions, Cherry was elected the first black woman to serve in the Florida Legislature in 1970. Her commitment to public service earned her four terms in the Florida House of Representatives. Her legacy goes beyond titles as she introduced key legislation in Florida’s history including the establishment of the Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday, and introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Florida's Bottom Line on Florida’s Economic Health

As a one-stop shop for the latest news and valuable insight on Florida's economic and financial health, Florida's Bottom Line is CFO Atwater's in-depth quarterly economic newsletter.Florida's Bottom Line

The newest edition of Florida’s Bottom Line is focused on the opportunities that lie ahead in this year as well as highlights of the progress that we have made in the past year. Inside, you will find exclusive analyses and commentary from leading experts in Florida as well as a look back on Florida’s economic achievements in 2015.

The accompanying Florida's Bottom Line website will keep you updated with the latest statistics on Florida's economy. Special reports, infographics and past editions are archived on the website for easy access.

Florida Economic Briefs

National unemployment rate unchanged in February
In February, the unemployment rate was at 4.9 percent, unchanged from the previous month and down 0.6 percentage points from last year (5.5 percent). Florida’s unemployment rate for January will be released on March 14th.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Florida’s real GDP growth was 2.0 percent in the third quarter of 2015
Florida’s real gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest sum of goods and services sold across the economy after adjusting for inflation, grew at an annualized rate of 2.0 percent in the third quarter of 2015, according to estimates released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP in Florida increased 5.1 percent.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis