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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Washington

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 20, 2020

United States Attorney William D. Hyslop Addresses Community Safety and Issues Warning Against COVID-19 Fraud Schemes and Other Crimes

Spokane, Washington – William D. Hyslop, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, addressed the status of the public safety amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We all know that crime does not take a break during a crisis. In fact, we know that crime often tries to take advantage of a crisis. We intend for that not to happen here,” said William D. Hyslop, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. “No person thinking they can commit a crime should be mistaken. COVID-19 changes nothing for law enforcement. If you commit a crime, law enforcement will be knocking on your door and you will be prosecuted,” Hyslop stated.

“The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington is open and fully operational. We will continue to work closely with all of our federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners to safeguard our justice system and protect the safety and security of our nation during this difficult time,” Hyslop stated.

“I also want it to be very clear that all law enforcement and this office will be vigilant and unwavering in investigating and aggressively prosecuting anyone trying to capitalize on the COVID-19 crisis. We are seeing cases of fraudsters popping up around the nation trying to take advantage of people in this health crisis. Phone scams, supposed sure cures, and increased elder fraud and health care fraud are just a few examples,” Hyslop stated.

United States Attorney Hyslop’s warning follows United States Attorney General William Barr’s directive earlier this week for all United States Attorneys around the country to place a high priority on stopping scam artists trying to take advantage of the coronavirus situation. In a memo to the U.S. Attorneys, Attorney General Barr wrote, “The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated.”

Some common scams being reported around the nation include:

• Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online;

• Phishing emails sent from entities posing as the World Health Organization (“WHO”) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”);

• Malware being inserted onto mobile phones by apps pretending to track the spread of the virus; and

• Increased elder fraud and healthcare fraud.

 

“The public should remain vigilant during this time. Citizens should not click on computer links from sources they do not know and should be aware when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. No one should allow themselves to be rushed by another person into making a donation or decision. If someone wants money in cash, by gift card, or by wiring it, don’t do it,” Hyslop warned.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington is working with the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, Fraud Section, and Antitrust Division to coordinate efforts to stop scammers preying on concerned Washington residents. Citizens are asked to report potential scams to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) by visiting www.IC3.gov. Crime tips of any kind can be submitted by visiting tips.fbi.gov. If you or someone you know are in immediate danger, call 911.

Topic(s): 
Disaster Fraud
Updated March 23, 2020