Jimmy Patronis Will Champion Hurricane Fraud Legislation When Legislature Meets Next Year

Last week, 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, Patronis 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.

In an effort to curb fraud in Florida last year, Patronis advocated for two Anti-Fraud Homeowner Squads, and since then, these squads have already opened 275 cases and arrested 81 individuals for fraud. Additionally, since Hurricane Ian made landfall these fraud teams have already made contact with more than 7,000 individuals, contractors and businesses to check for licensure, follow up on fraud leads, and open investigations.

“Today, I stood with my fraud fighting teams in Cape Coral to highlight my efforts to fight back against post-storm fraud and announce my pursuit of meaningful fraud reform legislation next session. In the wake of Hurricane Ian, we need to build on the efforts from the recent Special Session and continue to reduce frivolous litigation, stop predatory public adjustors, and tackle AOB abuse once and for all. Bad actors use tools like AOBs to take advantage of Florida consumers in their most vulnerable moments, preying on our citizens for too long. At the same time, there are bad public adjusters swarming impacted areas, soliciting, and trying to make a quick buck. They are promising to help while betraying the trust of people who have lost everything. This upcoming legislative session, we are going to work to make it less profitable for unscrupulous public adjusters following a disaster,” Patronis said.

“As we speak, we also have more than 40 fraud officers on the ground in Southwest Florida patrolling communities to look out for unlicensed activity and fraud. My fraud teams have already made contact with more than 7,000 individuals, contractors and businesses to check for licensure, follow up on fraud leads, and open investigations. Let me be clear – if you choose to defraud victims of Hurricane Ian – you will be caught and thrown in jail. If you suspect fraud, report it immediately by calling my Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445,” he added.

According to the CFO’s office, his fraud fighting legislative proposal includes:

This coming legislation session, Patronis’ goal is to disincentivize bad public adjusters following a disaster by creating a schedule of how Floridians’ payments will be laid out, under Florida Statutes.Patronis said, “We have bad Public Adjusters swarming impacted areas, soliciting, and trying to make a quick buck. Not only do individuals need more time to get out of a Public Adjuster contract during a state of emergency, we need to reduce the percentage a Public Adjuster is entitled to immediately following a storm, ensuring their motives are aligned with helping Floridians get back on their feet.

Bad actors use tools like AOBs to take advantage of Florida consumers in their most vulnerable moments. Patronis said, “During states of emergency, the number of bad actors looking to take advantage of Floridians increases and we’ve seen these same individuals preying on our citizens for too long, so with the help of the Legislature, I want to ban the use of AOBs.”

A statewide prosecutor focused solely on property insurance fraud to hold fraudsters accountable to the full extent of the law. Patronis said, “We will build on the success of the two Anti-Fraud Homeowner Squads we established last year by adding another unit. Since established, these squads have already opened 275 cases and arrested 81 individuals for fraud.”

Creation of a $3 Million Anti-Fraud and Public Education Campaign. Patronis said, “Policyholders need to understand what they are signing, and that litigation will only slow down their claims and could result in liens on their property.”

The proposals have the support of incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, state House Majority Leader Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte, other legislators, and Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno.

“CFO Patronis is working hard to fight fraud and protect consumers. My community and so many others across Southwest and Central Florida are just beginning the long process of recovering from Hurricane Ian. We are making progress each and every day, and we don’t want to see that momentum halted by fraud. I appreciate CFO’s effort to stop this criminal activity and protect our communities as we work to rebuild,” said Passidomo.

“I appreciate that CFO Jimmy Patronis is about helping Floridians and rebuilding our communities. The CFO’s anti-fraud proposals will help fight against predatory fraudsters after major storms. Something needs to be done, and I look forward to working with CFO Patronis on protecting our citizens, especially when they’re most vulnerable after a disaster,” said Grant.

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