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Public urged to be vigilant about Covid-19 fraudulent schemes

Posted 20 April 2020 at 9:04 am

Press Release, U.S. Department of Justice

The local Office for the Aging said texts like this one are a scam.

The Department of Justice is remaining vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis.  In a memo to U.S. Attorneys, Attorney General Barr said, “The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated.”

Be aware that criminals are attempting to exploit COVID-19 worldwide through a variety of scams. There have been reports of:

  • Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
  • Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
  • Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.

Fraud Advisory:

Criminals will likely continue to use new methods to exploit COVID-19 worldwide. Stay alert and stay informed about common fraud schemes related to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

• Be cautious of unsolicited healthcare fraud schemes of testing and treatment through emails, phone calls, or in person. The U.S. have medical professionals and scientist working hard to find a cure, approved treatment, and vaccine for COVID-19. Learn more about what to avoid.

• Be on the lookout for an increase in cryptocurrency fraud schemes including but not limited to blackmail attempts, work from home scams, paying for non-existent treatments or equipment, or investment scams. Read more on how to report these scams.

• Be wary of unsolicited telephone calls and e-mails from individuals claiming to be IRS and Treasury employees. Remember IRS first form of communications is by mail – not by phone. Learn more about fraudulent schemes related to the IRS.

• Verify you are receiving the official U.S. Treasury check. Look for the new official seal, bleeding ink, microprinting, watermark, and more.

If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home though a number of platforms.

Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at disaster@leo.gov.

If it’s a cyber scam, submit your complaint through the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Combatting hoarding and price gouging:

The Department is also committed to preventing hoarding and price gouging for critical supplies during this crisis.  To combat this misconduct, the President issued an Executive Order pursuant to section 102 of the Defense Production Act, which prohibits hoarding of designated items, and Attorney General Barr has now created the COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force.

In a memo to U.S. Attorneys, Attorney General Barr said, “we will aggressively pursue bad actors who amass critical supplies either far beyond what they could use or for the purpose of profiteering. Scarce medical supplies need to be going to hospitals for immediate use in care, not to warehouses for later overcharging.”

The Secretary of HHS has issued a Notice designating categories of health and medical supplies that must not be hoarded or sold for exorbitant prices.

If you have information on hoarding or price gouging of critical supplies, you can report it without leaving your home to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by calling the National Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or by e-mailing disaster@leo.gov.

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