Frequently Asked Questions
- I need an attorney. Can the Attorney General’s office represent me?
- I have a complaint against a private business. Where can I go for assistance?
- Does the Attorney General’s Office provide any services or benefits to victims of violent crimes that have resulted in financial hardship?
- What other services are available for crime victims?
- Does the Attorney General help the public with questions on open government?
- I believe that someone is using my name to run up charges on my credit. What can I do?
- I have a complaint with another state agency. Can the Attorney General act on my behalf or take action against it?
- Who can help me with questions about child support?
- I am having trouble with my insurance company. Can the Attorney General take action?
- I believe that my local public officials are breaking the law or engaging in unethical behavior. What should I do?
- I am constantly receiving telephone calls at night, on weekends, during the dinner hour, from people trying to sell me something. Is there any way I can prevent these calls?
- I know of a state law that needs to be changed. Who can I contact?
- Where can I find copies of state and federal laws?
- What training does the Attorney General’s Office offer to lawenforcement, victims, and the general public?
- I am part of a local Crime Stopper organization. How can my group apply for a grant from the Crime Stopper Trust Fund?
- Who can help me with a problem concerning my utility?
- I have a complaint against my local law enforcement department. Who can help me?
- I feel that I am being discriminated against because of age,race, gender, or disability. Can the Attorney General help me?
- I do not know all of the details on the products that I buy. How do I protect myself from consumer fraud?
- My landlord is not doing what he is supposed to do according to our lease. Who can help me?
- My neighbor recently moved to Florida from out of state and the mover would not unload the truck until my neighbor paid him more than agreed upon. I just moved here from within Florida and the same thing happened to me, plus several items were damaged. How can we recover our money?
1. I need an attorney. Can the Attorney General’s office represent me?
The Lawyer Referral Service at the Florida Bar can assist you in contacting an attorney in Florida with expertise relevant to your situation. By law, the Office of the Attorney General may not represent private citizens in legal disputes. The Lawyer Referral Service may be reached at 1-800-342-8011 (FL only) or 1-800-342-8060 (National). The Florida Bar’s web site address is http://floridabar.com.
2. I have a complaint against a private business. Where can I go for assistance?
There are a variety of options available to you. First, have you provided the business with an opportunity to respond before proceeding with a complaint to a higher authority? The Division of Consumer Services (within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) regulates a number of businesses and accepts complaints against those business under their jurisdiction. To learn of the businesses regulated by the Division of Consumer Services, as well as accessing online complaint forms, go to their web site at http://www.800helpfla.com. The telephone number is 1-800-435-7352 (1-800-HELP-FLA). En Espanol (1-800-FL-AYUDA).
If you believe that you are the victim of a scam or fraud, please call the Attorney General’s toll free hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (or 1-866-966-7226).
3. Does the Attorney General’s Office provide any services or benefits to victims of violent crimes that have resulted in financial hardship?
Yes. The Bureau of Victim Compensation provides financial assistance to innocent victims for payment of expenses incurred as a result of a criminal victimization. When eligibility criteria is met, victim/applicants may receive compensation for medical bills, wage loss, funeral/burial expenses, disability and loss of support. In addition, the Office of Attorney General offers a nationwide 24 hour toll-free information and referral service to provide crime victims with access to information regarding their claim or general information about the program. Operators are available to assist Spanish and Creole speaking victims. Our toll free number for victims is 1-800-226-6667. You may also fill out a claim form or visit the web site at http://myfloridalegal.com.
4. What other services are available for crime victims?
A directory for the victims of crime is available online through the Attorney General’s Office at http://myfloridalegal.com/directory. In addition to an existing listing of agencies that provide services to victims of crime, there is also a listing of the Regional Victim Advocates employed by the Office of the Attorney General. This office also provides assistance to victims and family members who are involved in the appeal of criminal trial court decisions to the appellate courts.
5. Does the Attorney General help the public with questions on open government?
Florida has one of the most progressive open government laws in the country. Known as the Government in the Sunshine Law, the statute provides that, except in rare circumstances, the public has access to meetings between elected officials and the records of government entities. The Attorney General’s Office is a leading source for interpretation of Sunshine Law questions and publishes the official Government in the Sunshine Manual. For more information, go to http://myfloridalegal.com/sunshine.
6. I believe that someone is using my name to run up charges on my credit. What can I do?
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. From 2001-2002, instances of identity theft doubled around the country. In Florida, the Office of Statewide Prosecution, under the Attorney General, prosecutes perpetrators of Identity Theft. If you are a victim of this crime, you are urged to call the Attorney General’s Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM, or 1-866-966-7226. Competent personnel will put you in touch with law enforcement and work with victims. In addition, there are ways to prevent such fraud. The Office of Statewide Prosecution offers tips to combat this invasive crime. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission has information on the internet. You may log on to http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/
7. I have a complaint with another state agency. Can the Attorney General act on my behalf or take action against it?
The Attorney General is prohibited from representing private individuals in any cases. Those with complaints with individual agencies should take those complaints to the respective administrators, secretaries or inspectors general of those agencies. Normally, each agency has an Ombudsman or office for public contact to help citizens with their problems with that agency. These agencies are listed at http://www.myflorida.com/directory/ The Legislature has ultimate oversight of state agencies and their budgets. You may wish to contact your state representative or state senator if you are unable to resolve the problem with the respective agency.
8. Who can help me with questions about child support?
The Attorney General’s Office represents the Department of Revenue’s Child Support Enforcement Division in administrative and judicial proceedings involving the establishment and enforcement of paternity and support in cases both within and outside Florida and include contested and non-contested cases. The Department of Revenue’s toll-free number for child support matters is 1-800-622-5437 (1-800-622-KIDS). This information can be accessed on the web at http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/childsupport/phone.html.
9. I am having trouble with my insurance company. Can the Attorney General take action?
The Florida Department of Financial Services’ is the state agency charged with regulating the state’s insurance industry. Within that Department is the Division of Consumer Services that provides public outreach and serves as a mediator in disputes between insurance companies and consumers. The toll-free number is 1-800-342-2762. In Tallahassee, consumers may call (850) 413-3130. On the web: http://www.fldfs.com/Consumers/.
10. I believe that my local public officials are breaking the law or engaging in unethical behavior. What should I do?
You may take your concerns to your region’s State Attorney for alleged illegal behavior. These officials have the authority to prosecute criminal wrongdoing. A list of the State Attorneys can be found at http://www.myfpaa.org/?form=stateattorneys. Ethical complaints about public officials are the responsibility of The Florida Commission on Ethics. The Commission can be reached at 850-488-7864 or on the web at http://www.ethics.state.fl.us/
11. I am constantly receiving telephone calls at night, on weekends, during the dinner hour, from people trying to sell me something. Is there any way I can prevent these calls?
Yes. The Division of Consumer Services is authorized to prevent unwanted telemarketing calls. Consumers may contact the Division at 1-800-435-7352 or visit the site on the world wide web at: http://www.800helpfla.com/telemkt.html
12. I know of a state law that needs to be changed. Who can I contact?
The Florida Constitution provides the Florida Legislature with sole authority to pass, and amend, the statutes. The Constitution provides the Attorney General with authority to investigate and prosecute violations of duly enacted statutes. You should contact your state representative and state senator with your concerns and suggestions. More information may be obtained at the Legislative Information Center at http://www.leg.state.fl.us or by calling 1-800-342-1827.
13. Where can I find copies of state and federal laws?
You can access state statutes online at http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm. The United States Code is quite extensive, but can be downloaded at http://uscode.house.gov/. Local libraries and the State Library are also excellent resources for information on government.
14. What training does the Attorney General’s Office offer to law enforcement, victims, and the general public?
Through the Florida Crime Prevention Training Institute, we offer training in three categories: crime prevention, victim’s services and school resource officer programs. In addition, a "designated practitioner" program is offered in all three training categories. For more information or to receive a training calendar, contact the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Justice Programs at 850-414-3360 or www.myfloridalegal.com/cjp. Hate Crime training is available for law enforcement while hate crimes/civil rights training is available for students. Contact the Attorney General’s Office of Civil Rights at (954) 712-4607.
15. I am part of a local Crime Stopper organization. How can my group apply for a grant from the Crime Stopper Trust Fund?
Crime Stopper organizations who are members of the Florida Association of Crime Stoppers and/or Boards of County Commissioners of a county served by a member Crime Stopper organization. For more information call 850-414-3360.
16. Who can help me with a problem concerning my utility?
The Florida Public Service Commission is the agency charged with ensuring that regulated electric and local telephone utilities observe state rules and service standards. You may wish to contact the PSC regarding your concerns at 1-800-342-3552 or visit their web site at http://www.psc.state.fl.us.
17. I have a complaint against my local law enforcement agency. Who can help me?
For municipal police agencies, you should first contact the agency’s Internal Affairs Section or the Chief of Police. If you are not satisfied with the response, you may wish to contact the mayor, city manager and/or city council members. You can obtain the names and telephone numbers of these officials in the government section of your telephone directory or by calling city hall. Complaints against employees of a local Sheriff's Office should be reported to the Internal Affairs Section of the agency or to the sheriff. Those names and telephone numbers are normally available within the government section of your telephone directory, or on the agency's website.
18. I feel that I am being discriminated against because of age, race, gender, or disability. Can the Attorney General help me?
Discrimination in any form is wrong and there are laws that govern these acts. Florida law contains some protections for ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity. Under Florida’s Civil Rights Act, complaints concerning discrimination in public accommodations, housing and employment may be first submitted to the Florida Commission on Human Relations for review and possible conciliation. Also, certain local or federal agencies (such as the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission) may be able to review your complaint. Those who feel that they are the victims of discriminatory practices should call the Attorney General’s Office of Civil Rights at (954) 712-4607. If the office is unable to sufficiently assist, a referral to the appropriate source will be offered.
19. I do not know all of the details on the products that I buy. How do I protect myself from consumer fraud?
While it helps to learn as much as one can about a particular product, you will seldom know as much as the individual selling that product. It is helpful to learn of your rights as well as your obligations when purchasing items, especially when signing a contract is involved. The Attorney General’s Office has a list of tips for buyers of a variety of consumer products.
20. My landlord is not doing what he is supposed to do according to our lease. Who can help me?
The State of Florida has a law governing this relationship. The tenant has certain responsibilities, but the landlord does as well. Click here to read Florida Landlord/Tenant Law. For more information concerning your rights, you may wish to consult with an attorney.
21. My neighbor recently moved to Florida from out of state and the mover would not unload the truck until my neighbor paid him more than agreed upon. I just moved here from within Florida and the same thing happened to me, plus several items were damaged. How can we recover our money?
Your neighbor’s interstate move is not regulated under Florida law, but there are steps that he can take. The U.S. Department of Transportation administers household goods transportation through its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Recovery of any damages to household goods must be handled by a claim with the carrier, but unscrupulous activity should be reported to the FMCSA. Their toll free hotline is 1-888-368-7238 and web address can be accessed at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/factsfigs/moving.htm.
The State of Florida does regulate moves within the state, known as intrastate moves. All intrastate moving companies must register with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Attorney General is committed to protecting consumers, as well as reputable movers, from the actions of a few unscrupulous firms by working with local authorities and through litigation when necessary. While claims for damaged goods must be filed through the carrier, you may contact our No Fraud Hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226) to report improper conduct by movers, such as holding cargo "hostage" until higher fees are paid. In addition, you may wish to contact the Division of Consumer Services for more information, or to file a formal complaint. They can be reached at 1-800-HELP-FLA or on the web at http://www.800helpfla.com/moving.html.