Florida Strengthens Business Database Security with ‘Sunbiz Bill’ Signing
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed State Rep. Fiona McFarland’s bill into law, aiming to combat fraud on the state’s business database, Sunbiz.org. The bill grants the Department of State the authority to implement password protection and identity verification measures for individuals making changes to business records on the website.
Sunbiz.org, managed by the Division of Corporations under the Florida Department of State, currently lacks a comprehensive system for verifying the identity of users applying for record changes. While fraudulent alteration of records on the platform is already a third-degree felony, the absence of identity checks has facilitated instances of business fraud in the past, as reported by the Herald-Tribune investigation in the previous year.
Rep. McFarland, inspired by the newspaper’s exposé on a Parrish man who allegedly gained control of a Sarasota real estate company and fraudulently obtained loans exceeding $1 million, introduced the bill with the intention of preventing similar incidents. The legislation received bipartisan support and was sponsored in the Senate by state Sen. Erin Grall.
Expressing her satisfaction, McFarland announced on Twitter that the “Sunbiz bill” had been signed into law by Governor DeSantis. She also expressed gratitude to Rep. Chip LaMarca and Sen. Erin Grall for their efforts in advancing the bill.
Under the new law, the Department of State will have the ability to develop a password-protected program specifically for registered businesses in Florida. This program will introduce additional security measures to ensure the accuracy and integrity of business records on Sunbiz.org, safeguarding businesses from potential fraudulent activities.
The importance of this legislation is highlighted by the case of Robert E. Houston Jr., who was arrested on multiple felony charges in relation to a real estate scheme. The Sarasota Police Department, following an investigation that spanned over four months, discovered that the bank accounts implicated in the fraudulent scheme were nearly depleted by the time of Houston’s arrest. Currently, Houston is in custody at the Sarasota County jail.
The implementation of the “Sunbiz bill” signifies Florida’s commitment to enhancing security and accountability within its business database. With password protection and identity verification measures in place, businesses in the state can have greater confidence in the integrity of their records and transactions.