CFO Patronis: DIFS Stepping Up Post-Ian Enforcement Actions
Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis is highlighting efforts to crack down on fraud and unlicensed activity following the impacts of Hurricane Ian. The CFO’s Division of Investigative and Forensic Services (DIFS) has deployed his fraud fighting squads consisting of more than 40 officers to storm impacted areas to educate the public on fraud and arrest anyone conducting unlicensed or fraudulent post-storm activity.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “Following Hurricane Ian, my fraud fighting squads have been on the ground canvassing neighborhoods to educate impacted families about the dangers surrounding signing their rights away through AOBs, and handing off their claims to public adjusters when they didn’t need to. Our DIFS teams have also engaged contractors to see if they were licensed, and insured, and make sure they were up to speed on the dos-and-don’ts of Florida law. I want to make it very clear – my fraud teams are looking out for bad actors targeting vulnerable Floridians following this storm. Fraudsters will be arrested and held accountable. Residents should know their rights and stay on guard when dealing with restoration professionals, contractors and adjusters. Always verify you are hiring a Florida licensed contractor and never feel pressured into signing anything or paying for services up front in cash. If you suspect fraud, report it immediately by calling my Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.”
From unlicensed contracting to price gouging, DIFS squads are on the lookout for criminals looking to scam storm victims. Since deployed two weeks ago, fraud teams have canvased Southwest Florida and provided outreach to more than 3,000 individuals and businesses.
CFO Jimmy Patronis’ Fraud Fighting Squads are on the lookout for:
- Uninsured Contracting - Punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison. Contractors are required to carry the appropriate liability and workers’ compensation coverage. Verify a contractor’s insurance coverage by calling the Division of Workers’ Compensation at 1-800-742-2214.
- Unlicensed Contracting – First offense punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail. Subsequent offenses after prior conviction are punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and five years in prison. Contractors are required to be licensed in the state of Florida. Residents can verify a contractor’s license and check to see if there are any complaints against them at MyFloridaLicense.com.
- Unlicensed & Unlawful Insurance Adjusting - Punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison. Adjusters doing business in Florida are required to be licensed by the Department of Financial Services. You can verify an adjusters license online at MyFloridaCFO.com. If you change your mind about working with a public adjuster, Florida law affords you up to 10 days from the date you entered the contract to cancel. A public adjuster may not offer money, kickbacks or other valuable consideration in exchange for referrals of business. Report adjuster related fraud immediately to the CFO’s Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.
- Price Gouging - Subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period. Florida law prohibits price gouging if the price of an essential commodity represents a gross disparity from the average price charged 30 days before the declared state of emergency, or grossly exceeds the average market price for the area. Price gouging can be reported to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office online at MyFloridaLegal.com or by calling 1(866) 9NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226).
$25,000 Florida Fraud Fighter Reward Program - The anti-fraud reward program was established in October 1999 to encourage and reward qualified individuals who report information on suspected insurance fraud that leads to an arrest and conviction. Fraud detectives need information on suspected fraud in impacted areas, and if a tip leads to the arrest and conviction of a fraudster, individuals could be eligible for up to $25,000 in rewards. For suspected fraud, contact the agency’s Insurance Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445 and to potentially qualify for a substantial Florida Fraud Fighter reward.