18 Florida cities among top 50 in U.S. for fraud
Another contractor has been arrested for an Assignment of Benefits (AOB) insurance fraud and one of his alleged victims is a Hurricane Michael survivor. Meanwhile, recently released statistics show Florida has maintained the dubious position of number one in the nation for fraud and is home to 18 of the top 50 cities in the U.S. for fraud. We also rank fourth in the nation in the sub-category of identity theft.
Wyatt Green, owner of Storm Restoration Specialists LLC in Jacksonville, was arrested for allegedly stealing more than $40,000 from consumers who assigned their insurance benefits to him through an AOB contract. According to the state Department of Financial Services (DFS) Green and his staff allegedly forged customer signatures on construction documents and insurance claim payment checks that required signatures from both the homeowner and mortgage lender.
This case is another example of a bad contractor scamming Floridians and pocketing the money without actually making repairs. The DFS investigation revealed that Green and his employees purchased 58 false bank endorsement stamps from an online manufacturer to aid in this scam. DFS says employees of Green also admitted to allegedly forging customer signatures on construction documents required by counties and municipalities. In some cases, construction work was never completed, and in others the work never even began.
WJXT News4 Jax reports there are several victims of Green’s alleged fraud, including a Lynn Haven owner of two homes damaged from Hurricane Michael. He told reporters that he signed an AOB with Green’s company and that two insurance checks for more than $30,000 that were supposed to be held in trust, were instead cashed, and to this day, none of the repair work has been started. You can read and watch the story here as well as this story with another customer from First Coast News. Green is also under investigation by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation for unlicensed activity as a roofing contractor.
(August 2019 Update: More charges filed against Wyatt Green)
The Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book report by the Federal Trade Commission shows 1 of every 10 Floridians was a victim of fraud in 2018, with the average rip-off amounting to $400. Florida has the highest per-capita fraud rate in the nation (1,002 cases per 100,000 people), followed by Georgia, Nevada, Delaware, and Maryland. There were 210,174 cases of fraud in the state last year, amounting to $84.2 million in losses.
Debt collection fraud was at the top of the categories of different hijinks committed in the Sunshine State, representing 29% of all cases, with identity theft in second place (15%), and imposter scams (13%) in third place. You can view more details in the chart at right from the report.
The Top 10 Florida cities for fraud by number of cases:
1. Miami/Fort Lauderdale Metro Area
2. Pensacola Metro Area
3. Tampa/St. Petersburg Metro Area
4. The Villages
5. Orlando Metro Area
7. Daytona Beach Metro Area
8. Melbourne Metro Area
9. Port St. Lucie
The remaining 8 Florida metropolitan statistical areas that made the Top 50 cities in the U.S. for fraud per capita are:
- Gainesville Metro Area (13th in US)
- Ocala Metro Area (21st)
- Sebastian-Vero Beach Metro Area (24th)
- Punta Gorda Metro Area (26th)
- Lakeland-Winter Haven Metro Area (29th )
- North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton Metro Area (34th)
- Cape Coral-Fort Myers Metro Area (35th)
- Homosassa Springs Metro Area (1st in the US for per capita fraud) This relatively rural area, a 45-minute drive north of Tampa, had 1,525 reports per 100,000 population. That’s 64% more than #2 on the U.S. list, Santa Fe, New Mexico. What the heck is going on in quiet Homosassa Springs, home of beautiful clear springs and gentle manatee shows?
For reported identify theft, the top states were Georgia, Nevada, California, Florida, and Texas. Florida had nearly 38,000 reported identity thefts, led by credit card fraud.
DFS recently launched a Fraud Free Florida initiative to encourage Floridians to report fraud wherever they see it happening and better coordinate investigative efforts.
LMA Newsletter of 4-22-19