**VIDEO RELEASE** CFO Jimmy Patronis Delivers Remarks on Legislation to Fight Back Against Post-Storm Fraud
|For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 20, 2022|
Contact: Office of Communications, Communications@MyFloridaCFO.com, 850.413.2842
CFO Jimmy Patronis Delivers Remarks on Legislation to Fight Back Against Post-Storm Fraud
CAPE CORAL, Fla. – Yesterday, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis held a press conference in Cape Coral to highlight fraud prevention efforts in the wake of Hurricane Ian. During the press conference, the CFO announced that he will propose legislation, including cracking down on bad Public Adjusters by curbing their ability to take advantage of Floridians under financial duress, combatting Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse by eliminating the use of AOBs altogether, creating a statewide prosecutor focused solely on property insurance fraud to hold fraudsters accountable to the full extent of the law, and lastly, requesting a $3 million anti-fraud public education campaign.
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Good morning, thank you all for being here.
I’m Jimmy Patronis. I'm the State’s CFO and State Fire Marshall.
About four years ago, Hurricane Michael devastated my hometown of Panama City, Florida…
As a Category 5 storm we learned a lot of lessons.
We learn some from every single storm that hits the state of Florida. It's not if, it's when the next one’s going to hit.
What we learned from Category 5 Michael was the predators that come out after the storm.
We see the absolute best in people, but we see the absolute worst in others and with that comes the opportunity for our office to step up and try to help protect the citizens of the state of Florida as they try to piece their lives back together after a storm.
A devastating Cat 4 storm has ripped through Southwest Florida and created historic storm surge and flooding.
We are now putting the pieces back together and trying to get folks on their feet as quick as possible, so we've got a few messages that we're trying to get across.
Part of this is our legislative agenda that we're going to do to help people, but I need to make sure people understand their rights of what they're faced with, and we're doing everything we can to fight against the fraud and the unethical behavior of public adjusters and contractors that come into this market that take advantage of people.
As we speak right now, bad actors are canvassing the neighborhoods and they are siphoning off people's claim dollars that could go to restore their lives. But, because they're unknowingly signing what's called an Assignment of Benefits…
I'll give you an example let's say your insurance carrier has got a policy worth $100,000, more cases than not, it's worth more than that. But as you sign this Assignment of Benefits, you are assigning your benefits to this person you just met at your doorstep.
You are giving them a blank check that gives them access to your claim. So where your roof damage may be a repair as opposed to a replacement, you might get billed for an entire replacement roof at a price that could be multiple of the actual cost of the repair because you have assigned your benefit to the individual making the claim on behalf of the work being done.
Unfortunately, everything I just explained to you is legal, but there are rights that you have in order to get out of these.
If you have any needs or questions, you can call our office at 1-877-693-5236.
Second message is as these fraudsters are working through the market, you will be put in jail. That's what we are here to do.
We are here to protect you, but if you are crossing the line and taking advantage of our citizens, there will be zero tolerance for those who take advantage of people when they're most vulnerable.
So, if you are an Uninsured Contractor, if you're an Unlicensed Contractor, if you're an Unlicensed and Unlawful Adjuster, those are laws that you are breaking doing business in those ways and you will be arrested and you will go to jail. Those offenses are punishable by five years in prison.
So, anybody who's taking advantage of somebody during the worst time of their life, to me there's not a prison in this state that is nice enough for you.
We have had contact with over 7,000 individuals so far as we continue to hold people’s hands through this.
We're going to make sure that those that are doing the business to help our citizens get back on their feet are legal to do so.
If you feel like you have been taken advantage of you can call us at 1-800-378-0445.
The third and last message I'm going to share with you is…
We're going to work with the legislature and say look we need some dollars to be able to push out this message to make sure that we have educated citizens of the State of Florida so they're not being taken advantage of.
I remind people all the time this is not the first storm that's hit Florida nor is it the last storm that’s going to hit Florida.
We've got 900 people a day moving to the State of Florida, and they need to understand that this is some of the things that they can be affected by and how to protect them from these fraudulent actors that come into the market.
So, as we work on fraud reform, we're going to ask the legislature for $3 million to speed up and ask for this type of campaign to educate the public.
Public Adjusters. Public adjusters come into the market and there's good public adjusters and there's bad public adjusters.
But, mark my words for those that truly want to help people, you will have that opportunity to continue to help people in the State of Florida.
But, those that come in after a storm, after a named disaster, we are going to curb your ability to take advantage of people under their moment of financial duress.
So, we're going to create a schedule of how your payments will be laid out under Florida Statute and if you truly want to help people out you can help them all day long.
We are setting a schedule of payments where your graduated amount, you'll be able to collect per day, will be adjusted.
This Legislative Session we're going to make it less profitable for people to prey on our citizens after a natural disaster.
So, between $3 million for greater advocacy, from changing how Public Adjusters approach their doing business after a storm, and lastly eliminating AOB.
These are the three things that we must do. Litigation reform is key to make sure that we have a protected homeowner in the State of Florida.
So again, since our efforts have been placed by our new strike teams, we've had 275 cases open and 80 arrested people that are gaming the system.
These are very difficult cases to prosecute. They're very complicated because these are individuals that are living within Florida Statutes and we simply have to close loopholes and litigation reform is key.
About CFO Jimmy Patronis
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis is a statewide elected official and a member of Florida’s Cabinet who oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Patronis works each day to fight insurance fraud, support Florida’s firefighters, and ensure the state’s finances are stable to support economic growth in the state. Follow the activities of the Department on Facebook (FLDFS) y Twitter (@FLDFS).