U.S. Attorney Announces Multi-Agency Group To Investigate And Prosecute COVID-19 Fraud
Tampa, FL – U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez today announced that, in response to the increased threat of fraud presented by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies have joined together to form the Middle District of Florida COVID-19 Fraud Task Force. The mission of the task force is to identify, investigate, and prosecute fraud related to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. As part of the joint effort, the Department of Justice, and its various components will be coordinating information and resources with state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the Middle District of Florida.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to fulfill its critical mission to the public, and remains open for business,” stated U.S. Attorney Chapa Lopez. “During this national crisis, we will prioritize the investigation and prosecution of crimes related to the COVID-19.”
To ensure that prompt attention is given to these crimes, U.S. Attorney Chapa Lopez has designated a Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Perry, to work with law enforcement partners, thereby increasing efforts to protect the public from scammers and fraudsters attempting to prey upon the public’s fears during this national crisis. Law enforcement, public safety and health personnel, and first responders have been encouraged to report related suspicious or suspected illegal activity to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.
Some examples of these fraudulent schemes include:
- 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 Coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
- Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
- Medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.
The NCDF can receive and enter complaints into a centralized system that can be accessed by all U.S. Attorneys, as well as Justice Department litigating and law enforcement components to identify, investigate and prosecute fraud schemes. From there, complaints will be coordinated among at least 16 additional federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state Attorneys General and local authorities.