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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Rhode Island

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 20, 2020

Public urged to Report Suspected COVID-19 Fraud

Assistant United States Attorney Lee H. Vilker appointed Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator

PROVIDENCE – U.S. Attorney Aaron L. Weisman of the District of Rhode Island today urged the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or to the NCDF e-mail address disaster@leo.gov.

In coordination with the Department of Justice, Attorney General William Barr has directed U.S. Attorneys to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of Coronavirus fraud schemes.

“These unprecedented times call for unprecedented caution to not only stay safe and healthy, but to not fall victim to fraudsters who, without hesitation, are working every angle to rip-off Americans by stealing their personal identity and their money,” noted United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman. “Rhode Islanders should not share any information with anyone unless you are 100% certain who you are dealing with. If you suspect fraud, contact the NCDF hotline. The United States Attorney’s Office, our federal law enforcement partners, and the entire Department of Justice stand ready to work together to bring down the hammer and hold fraudsters accountable.”

Some examples of these 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.      

In a memorandum to U.S. Attorneys issued March 19, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen also directed each U.S. Attorney to appoint a Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator to serve as the legal counsel for the federal judicial district on matters relating to the Coronavirus, direct the prosecution of Coronavirus-related crimes, and to conduct outreach and awareness activities.   The District of Rhode Island Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator is Assistant United States Attorney Lee H. Vilker.

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.  The NCDF coordinates complaints with 16 additional federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state Attorneys General and local authorities.

To find more about Department of Justice resources and information, please visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus

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Topic(s): 
Consumer Protection
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Jim Martin (401) 709-5357
Press Release Number: 
20-41
Updated March 20, 2020