Tax season is here, and this week, our office issued a Consumer Alert to warn Floridians of a new phishing tactic that could wreak havoc on people preparing their taxes.

The tactic, called conversation hijacking, involves scammers accessing an ongoing email conversation and sending a new message containing a malicious link or attachment—giving the appearance that the message is from a trusted source. Victims clicking on the link or opening the attachment are then prompted to provide personal information that could be used to submit fraudulent tax returns.

Floridians should remain cautious. Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments that seem suspicious. Never share passwords or login information with anybody. Change passwords frequently—using numbers and special characters.

For more tips to guard against conversation hijacking scams, click here.

As technology evolves, so do the methods scammers use to bypass security and trick users into compromising sensitive information. Conversation hijacking attacks are just the latest trick being used to steal people’s identities and access their financial information.

As Attorney General, I will work with our Consumer Protection Division to stay ahead of the trends and technologies scammers use to commit identity theft and steal from Floridians.

Please take steps to protect your personal and financial information. If you encounter a scam, please report it to my office by visiting MyFloridaLegal.com or calling 1(866) 9NO-SCAM.

10 Suspects Arrested in Multimillion Dollar Health Insurance Scheme

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis today announced the arrests of 10 suspects in a multimillion dollar insurance fraud operation, spanning multiple counties in Florida. According to a two-year investigation by the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Department of Financial Services, the suspects participated in an organized crime ring that established fake medical clinics by renting small office spaces. The suspects then billed insurance companies using the personal information of several doctors and insurance subscribers. The fraudulent clinics were located in Hillsborough, Lee, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. The suspects allegedly submitted 23,708 claims worth more than $40 million.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “This organized crime scheme cost health insurance companies millions and stretched from Hillsborough to Miami-Dade County. Insurance fraud is a serious crime that forces higher premiums on all ratepayers, and as Attorney General, I will continue to work with our great law enforcement partners to investigate and bring to justice any criminal organization exploiting Florida’s insurance market.”

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said, “Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime and fraud like this drives up insurance costs for every Floridian. Stolen identities, fake clinics, and stealing $42 million–this was an elaborate fraud scheme and ultimately consumers are on the losing end. Let me be clear: If you commit insurance fraud in Florida, my office will catch you and you will go to jail.”

The suspects in this case all appeared to be living in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The 10 individuals taken into custody are Xiomara Baullosa, Maylene Cruz, Enrique Galera-Risco, Sandra Hidalgo, Anais Jorge, Jorge Leyva, Luis Machado, Nivardo Parra, Nestor Rodriguez and Nestor Damian Rodriguez. Pending warrants are still out for Gonzalo Rodriguez, Arnaldo Valido, Jorge Valido and Minerva Valido.

According to statements from more than 30 doctors and subscribers, victims of identity theft related to the scheme never shared personal information. The victims, including both doctors and subscribers, never provided or received the treatment procedures billed—in fact the subscribers never saw the doctors purported to have provided them with treatments.

Insurance company United Healthcare suffered the greatest loss because of the fraudulent activity, paying out more than $10 million in fraudulent claims. Florida Blue and several other insurers also paid out fraudulent claims.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau assisted in the investigation. Florida Attorney General’s Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Carrie Pollock Gil will handle the case.

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