Floridians can earn money for reporting fraud - WNEM TV 5

Floridians can earn money for reporting fraud

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Janie Prescott talks to Stacie about how she discovered a case of alleged fraud Janie Prescott talks to Stacie about how she discovered a case of alleged fraud

If you can alert the state to almost any kind of fraud you could find yourself the recipient of some serious cold hard cash.

People are getting checks for $5,000, $10,000 and even $25,000 thousand dollars.  The state of Florida has already doled out nearly $350,000 dollars in reward money.

Janie Prescott of Hernando, FL got a check for $10,000 after tipping the state off to a shady insurance agent.

It began when Prescott became worried about her aging parents after her mother started having some health problems. It prompted Prescott and her brother to ask about their parents' finances.

"We knew Dad had these annuities, so my brother called the insurance agent and asked if they could have a meeting," Prescott said.  "Well, the guy came to the house on two occasions and he had not one shred of paperwork with him."

That made Prescott nervous.

"We started going through Dad's checkbook and found all these checks written to this insurance agent's agency, not an insurance company, his insurance agency," said Prescott. 

That's when Prescott says she knew something fishy was going on.

Prescott called the State of Florida's anti-fraud hotline to turn in the insurance agent, Victor Ruser Senior of Lakeland, FL. It turns out he was taking advantage of multiple victims and pocketing big chunks of money.

"They call it churning or twisting. Where you buy and sell annuities and the only person who really makes any money is the insurance agent," Prescott said.

The state determined Ruser Sr. had made off with some $866,000 dollars. He is now serving a ten year prison sentence.

Major Tim Cannon with the Florida Chief Financial Officer's officer says fraud is not a victimless crime.  It drives up the cost of insurance for everyone.

"Although there may not be the violence associated with fraud there's still significant damages and significant losses to individuals, to businesses to the state," said Major Cannon.

That's why the state of Florida decided to offer incentives for people who turn in suspected cases of insurance fraud back in 1999.

In the Bay area alone, to date, people have received checks ranging from $500 to $10,000 for turning in insurance fraud that results in an arrest and conviction.

"For example, a million dollars in loss would result in a reward up to $25,000," said Major Cannon.  "It's tier based on the total amount of loss and based on the complexity of the case and the number of defendants arrested."

There are many types of fraud to report that can make you eligible for a cash reward. From people staging accidents, to workers comp fraud and even inflated property insurance claims. It's important to note you also can remain anonymous and still collect the cash.

Janie Prescott took the $10,000 in reward money she received and invested it for her parents, but that doesn't make what happened any easier. Prescott gets choked up just talking about how her highly educated father lost faith in mankind.

"My father was angry and wondered how could I possibly have gotten involved in something like this," Prescott said.

Prescott's parents lost $117,000 to the insurance agent they treated like a son. They're not destitute but they are disappointed they won't get that money back.

"They've lived a comfortable life but to lose your life savings is pretty traumatic,"  said Prescott.

If you suspect fraud, check out the anti-fraud reward program's website.

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