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COVID-19 Fraud

 

In the face of the COVID-19 virus, your health and safety are the Department of Justice’s top priority.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky is on-duty to protect the citizens of eastern Kentucky from fraudsters and criminals who seek to exploit this crisis for their profit.  The Department of Justice has heard reports of scammers using email phishing schemes that claim to be from legitimate health organizations, advertising counterfeit virus test kits, and seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations, all in an effort to exploit people’s anxiety and uncertainty.

Please don’t fall victim to these frauds and crimes.  If you see these frauds being attempted or if you are victimized by these frauds, please report them to:

  • If you believe you have been a target or victim of a scam or fraud, please report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at disaster@leo.gov
  • COVID-19 Fraud Coordinator, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Paul McCaffrey at 859-233-2661, or
  • Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.

For continuing information on the COVID-19 virus and the federal response, check https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Avoid Coronavirus Scams

Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus. They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information. The emails and posts may be promoting awareness and prevention tips, and fake information about cases in your neighborhood. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments.  Some examples of COVID-19 scams include:

  • Treatment scams:  Scammers are offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19.
     
  • Supply scams:  Scammers are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks. When consumers attempt to purchase supplies through these channels, fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.
     
  • Provider scams: Scammers are also contacting people by phone and email, pretending to be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19, and demanding payment for that treatment.
     
  • Charity scams: Scammers are soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19. 
     
  • Phishing scams: Scammers posing as national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.
     
  • App scams: Scammers are also creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information. 
     
  • Investment scams: Scammers are offering online promotions on various platforms, including social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often styled as “research reports,” make predictions of a specific “target price,” and relate to microcap stocks, or low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies with limited publicly available information. 

 

U.S. Attorney Duncan has offered the following tips to help avoid scammers:

  • Do not click on links from sources you don’t know. These could be attempts to download viruses onto your computer or cell phone.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. Watch out for products that claim to cure coronavirus or guarantee coronavirus prevention. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure COVID-19.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding websites. Do not let anyone rush you into making a donation.
  • If someone asks for a donation in cash, gift card, or wire transfer, do not do it.
  • Be wary of emails from con artists pretending to be the Centers for Disease Control or other public health organizations. A legitimate medical provider would never ask for sensitive information through email.
  • Consult the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for reliable information and updates about the coronavirus. A COVID-19 hotline has also been established for health-related concerns and questions at 1-800-722-5725.

 

News Regarding COVID-19 and the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Kentucky

U.S. Attorney Duncan's Statement on COVID-19

U.S. Attorney Duncan Designates Federal Prosecutor to Lead Fight Against COVID-19 Fraud in Eastern District of Kentucky

Federal and State Officials Launch Kentucky Coronavirus Fraud Task Force

 

Updated April 2, 2020

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