My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Can you hear me now? In the time it takes for you to answer that question, you could have already fallen victim to a scam. Woman on phoneTax season has arrived and for some of us, filing our taxes may not be the most burdensome of tasks, but that can quickly change as scammers and fraudsters are more active now than any other time of the year. Unfortunately, Floridians are often targeted by scammers as our high number of senior residents are among the most likely to be targeted. February is Senior Independence Month and while conversations with our parents and grandparents about their independent living and home safety may have already begun, we must remember that discussing how to protect our seniors’ finances is equally as important.

Recent reports show that consumers lose about $50 billion each year to scammers, with phone scams targeting seniors accounting for a large percentage of that total. History has shown that phone scams seem to be the easiest to orchestrate, but there are many ways consumers can be scammed via email, postal mail or even face to face.

Here are some of the most recent scams that have been used to target seniors:

  • "Can You Hear Me Now?" – Callers claiming to be from the IRS ask the question, "Can you hear me now?" The scammers record the consumer’s response and if the consumer says "Yes," the caller hangs up and calls back. During this second conversation, the caller asks the consumer if they are aware of money that is owed and that the consumer must provide payment. The caller then uses the previous “yes” recording to manipulate the phone records to show false proof of the consumer acknowledging and agreeing to provide the payments.
  • Grandparent Scam – Callers claim to be a grandchild who has been arrested in another country and needs money to get back to the U.S. Callers warn that telling mom or dad can make the problem worse, and consumers are asked to wire money to any number of overseas locations.
  • Debt Collection – Via telephone call or postal mail, phony debt collectors demand money to cover unpaid debts. Often times, consumers are threatened with legal action if payments are not made.

The Department has a wide range of free resources and information to ensure our seniors are protected from the scammers who seek to defraud them. If you’re interested in learning more through one of our live "Be Scam Smart" workshops, visit our Operation S.A.F.E (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation) webpage to sign up for a workshop near you. Next week, our team will be in Arcadia on February 7, and Wauchula on February 8 demonstrating how to avoid being scammed, what to look for, and how to report a potential scammer.

In addition to our workshops, I encourage all Florida families to visit our Your Money Matter$ webpage this month to become familiar with the Department’s multiple videos and scam fact sheets to help inform, empower and protect yourselves and your loved ones from those who may wish to steal from them. An informed community is a better-protected community and we all have a part to play.

Sincerely,

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida


Operation S.A.F.E., Be Scam Smart Workshops

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater invites you to participate in Operation S.A.F.E., Be Scam Smart, a free workshop for seniors, their families, and caregivers.

The Florida Department of Financial Services launched Operation S.A.F.E. (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation) as part of CFO Atwater’s On Guard for Seniors initiative. Be Scam Smart workshops help inform, empower, and protect Florida’s seniors from financial scams and fraud. If you want to make sure your savings are protected, register for this workshop and get a better understanding of how scam artists and scams work.

Operation S.A.F.E.Be Scam Smart by learning more about:

  • How to Spot Fraudulent Behavior
  • Common Scams that Target Seniors
  • How to Fight Identity Theft

Feedback from seniors who attended a Be Scam Smart workshop:

“Savored every moment of this workshop. The information was needed and vital for seniors’ and consumers’ financial survival.” - West Palm Beach

“Presentations were great & well timed. Excellent information we all need to know.” - Pensacola

“Every senior in the city and state should attend the Be Scam Smart Workshop.” - Jacksonville

“Thank you for alerting us to the scam we as seniors are exposed to.” - Brandon


Find out more about us in the About Us section or Register for an upcoming event, including the following workshop:

  • Tuesday, February 7 – Arcadia
    10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
    DeSoto County Administration Building, Room 103
    201 East Oak Street, Arcadia, FL 34266
    Register | Directions | Flyer

  • Wednesday, February 8 – Wauchula
    10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
    Hardee County Public Library
    315 N. 6th Avenue, Wauchula, FL 33873
    Register | Directions | Flyer

Please let us know if you would like to request a workshop in your area.

Patrick McLaughlin, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center.Florida's Bottom Line: Changing Federal Red Tape and Florida

Patrick McLaughlin, Ph.D., guest-authored a column in our latest edition of Florida's Bottom Line that focuses on federal regulation changes. Here is an excerpt:

Regulations were a central theme of the 2016 election. While the new administration’s timeline for implementing regulatory changes remains unclear, the likelihood of any changes occurring in the administration’s first year largely depend on the legal mechanisms at its disposal. Many regulatory policies may be quickly abandoned with a stroke of the pen. A much larger number of regulations were produced by regulatory agencies through the regulatory process (often called the “notice-and-comment” process). Changes to such rules often require several years, with no guarantee of success. Congressional actions, ranging from repeals of specific rules to reform of the regulatory process itself, may also alter the regulatory landscape.

So what can we reasonably expect in the first year?

Read more from Dr. McLaughlin in the current edition of Florida's Bottom Line, CFO Atwater's award-winning quarterly economic magazine, focused on providing you with the latest news and insightful analysis on Florida's economic and financial health.

Florida Economic Briefs

U.S. real GDP growth was 1.6 percent in 2016
U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest sum of goods and services produced across the economy, grew 1.6 percent in 2016 according to an advance estimate released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Real GDP is the value of all final goods and services produced by the nation’s economy adjusted for inflation. Florida’s 2016 real GDP growth will be released on May 11.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

Consumer sentiment rose in January
Consumer sentiment among Floridians increased slightly in January, marking the highest index reading since March 2002. Among the five components that make up the index, three increased and two decreased. Read the latest edition of Florida's Bottom Line to learn more.
Source: UF Bureau of Economic and Business Research