Florida officials are warning residents about a new scam that targets those who hope to recover unclaimed cash or property from the state.
The scam: Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater warned consumers about a new scam - and fake agency – related to the retrieval of unclaimed property. "A company calling themselves The Florida Department of Financial Restitution has been contacting consumers claiming to be on contract with CFO Atwater's Department of Financial Services and offering to reunite them with unclaimed property for an upfront fee of $600," Atwater said in press release.
There is no legal entity named The Florida Department of Financial Restitution.
The state operates an office called the Bureau of Unclaimed Property, which oversees more than $1 billion dollars in unclaimed money and property that belongs to potentially hundreds of thousands of current and former Florida residents. The bureau is under the auspices of the Department of Financial Services, and what it safeguards for residents comes from dormant accounts in financial institutions, such as banks and savings and loans, insurance and utility companies, securities and trust holdings. Property may also include watches, jewelry, coins, currency, stamps, historical items and other miscellaneous articles from abandoned safe deposit boxes.
The Bureau of Unclaimed Property returned a record amount — $209,936,000 — to Floridians in 2011.
"Citizens who were contacted by the scam and asked to pay $600 to recover unclaimed property actually had no unclaimed property being held by the department," Atwater said. "These scam artists are trying to defraud consumers out of their hard-earned dollars by using deceitful practices and peddling a service that my department offers free of charge," Atwater said.
What you should know:
If you are contacted by "The Department of Financial Restitution," call authorities at the Division of Consumer Services at 1-877-693-5236
Do not agree to a similar offer, sign a contract or send money to the Florida Department of Financial Restitution.
Consumers can search for unclaimed property by accessing the department's website at www.FLTreasureHunt.org or by calling (888) 258-2253