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FIGHTING FOR FLORIDIANS — Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried attend a meeting of the Florida Cabinet in February. Agencies they oversee are taking action to protect state residents from people trying to commit fraud or circumvent directives designed to curb the coronavirus during the pandemic.

State agencies are cracking down on people trying to take advantage of Floridians or skirting rules designed to combat the coronavirus.

For instance, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) Division of Consumer Services is helping hold people and businesses accountable for ignoring COVID-19 directives.

“As Florida’s COVID-19 cases skyrocket, we’re making our Division of Consumer Services available to help hold bad actors accountable for ignoring COVID-19 directives,” Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a news release. “We have been in touch with the 40,000 licensed businesses we regulate to provide guidance on sanitization and safety procedures. But guidelines and directives only help reduce COVID-19’s spread if everyone follows the rules.”

Consumers who see businesses and organizations ignoring state or local ordinances should report it to FDACS, Fried said.

Since March 1, FDACS has received 815 consumer complaints related to COVID-19 regarding travel, landlord/tenant, moving and storage, gyms and health studios, and other issues, according to the news release. FDACS has provided guidance to food retailers, markets, and other businesses on food safety and sanitization practices to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

To file a consumer complaint, consumers should use the Division of Consumer Services’ online form or call 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-FL-AYUDA en Español). State and local COVID-19 ordinances may include requirements for the wearing of face masks, closures and capacity limitations of certain businesses such as bars and restaurants, and the presence of handwashing stations in food-preparation areas of retail establishments.

Florida’s Department of Financial Services is issuing warnings after a recent report that more than two dozen Google Android apps were caught stealing consumers’ financial data.

“I’m reminding all Floridians to continuously monitor your personal and business accounts and know the warning signs of identity theft, fraud and scams,” Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said in a news release.

While technology has improved and enhanced our everyday lives, far too often hacks or data breaches leave Floridians vulnerable to fraud, Patronis noted.

The Federal Trade Commission ranks Florida second in the nation for fraud and ID theft reports and estimates that Florida fraud losses totaled nearly $90 million in 2019 alone, especially iIdentity theft and imposter scams, he said in the news release.

Patronis’ office offered tips to help protect personal and financial information:

Reviewing your recent account activity online or by phone to improve credit-card safety. If your credit-card company offers email or text alerts regarding unusual activity, consider signing up now.

Periodically review your credit report for any accounts that scam artists may have opened in your name. Credit reports are available free of charge from each of the three national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) every 12 months.

Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from suspicious emails, especially emails claiming to be connected to a data breach.

If you believe you’ve been the victim of identity theft, or as an additional precaution, consider placing a free credit freeze on your credit file with each of the credit reporting agencies to further prevent unauthorized activity.

Patronis said if you feel you’ve fallen victim to fraud, report it immediately at FraudFreeFlorida.com.

“Always remember, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.