PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain warned the public today about the growing number and variety of fraud schemes associated with the coronavirus. He offered guidance to help prevent the public from being victimized by these frauds.
“Over the past few weeks, there has been a significant number of frauds committed across the country related to the coronavirus pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “The fact that criminals seek to exploit the pandemic by preying on the worries and fears of the public in this difficult time is despicable. My Office will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to protect the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. We will leave no stone unturned to find these criminals and bring them to justice.”
Below are some of the known fraudulent schemes related to the coronavirus pandemic:
- Fake cures: Fraudsters are advertising fake cures, fake vaccines, and so-called “immunity” pills, and including wild claims about the products’ healing powers with no scientific or medical basis.
- Fake testing: Fraudsters are selling fake at-home testing kits or going door-to-door performing fraudulent tests in exchange for money.
- Health care frauds: Fraudsters are offering free (and phony) coronavirus testing to obtain Medicare or other healthcare insurance information, which they use to submit false claims for benefits.
- Fake protection and supplies: Fraudsters are advertising fake or un-tested protective equipment (including respirator masks) through websites, social media, and robocalls. The fraudsters have no real equipment to sell, or provide equipment that has not been proven to work for its advertised purpose.
- Phishing: Fraudsters are posing as representatives from well-known institutions, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in order to trick victims into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.
- Fake health care providers: Fraudsters pose as doctors or hospital employees and contact individuals via phone or email. They make false claims that they treated a relative or friend for coronavirus and demand money for the claimed treatment.
- Identity theft: Fraudsters are using social media to fraudulently seek donations or provide stimulus funds if the victim provides a bank account number or other personal identifying information. The fraudsters use the information entered by the victim to impersonate the victim and steal money from the victim’s bank account.
- Securities fraud: Fraudsters are promoting securities in publicly traded companies that they falsely claim have discovered the cure for coronavirus.
- Fake charities: Fraudsters are soliciting donations for charities to allegedly benefit people affected by the virus and pocketing the money for themselves.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office urges everyone to follow these tips to better protect themselves from these types of fraud schemes:
- Ignore unsolicited offers for coronavirus cures, vaccines, pills, or treatment. If there is a medical breakthrough, you will not hear about it first through an email, advertisement, or door-to-door sales pitch. Be aware that fraudsters often use addresses that differ only slightly from the entities that they are impersonating, such as “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”
- Do not share personal information with strangers. Be extremely cautious about unsolicited emails or ads that request your personal information for any purpose. Legitimate healthcare providers will not call or email you and demand medical information, personal identifying information, or money for treatment they have provided to a friend or relative. Report the contact to law enforcement.
- Do not open emails or links from unknown sources. In doing so, you could download malware or a virus onto your computer or device.
- Be extremely cautious when sending money in any form. If a business, charity, or individual is requesting payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail, be careful. Take extra steps to verify the identity of the receiving party and the security of the transaction.
- Have up-to-date software protections on your devices. Be sure the anti-virus and anti-malware software on your computer or device is operating and up-to-date.
If you or someone you know has been the target or victim of a fraud scheme related to the coronavirus, please report the incident to the national hotline at The National Center for Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721 or at email@example.com.