U.S. Attorney Urges Public to Report Suspected COVID-19 Fraud or Price Gouging
SIOUX FALLS, SD – United States Attorney Ron Parsons of the District of South Dakota 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 email@example.com.
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. The NCDF Hotline 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 Department of Justice continues to fulfill its critical mission during this critical time, and we remain open for business. Our primary goal is to do everything we can to maintain safety and security throughout our district,” said U.S. Attorney Parsons. “Fraud related to COVID-19 is particularly disturbing as it exploits a national crisis for personal gain. Be assured that those who seek to defraud or exploit others will be held accountable.”
Some examples of COVID-19 schemes include:
- Individuals and businesses selling fake cures or fake testing kits 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.
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 South Dakota’s Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator is Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann M. Hoffman.
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 federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state Attorneys General and local authorities.
The Department is also committed to preventing hoarding and price gouging for critical supplies during this crisis. To combat this misconduct, the President issued an Executive Order pursuant to section 102 of the Defense Production Act, which prohibits hoarding of designated items, and Attorney General Barr has now created the COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force. In a memo to U.S. Attorneys, Attorney General Barr said, “we will aggressively pursue bad actors who amass critical supplies either far beyond what they could use or for the purpose of profiteering. Scarce medical supplies need to be going to hospitals for immediate use in care, not to warehouses for later overcharging.” The Secretary of HHS has issued a Notice designating categories of health and medical supplies that must not be hoarded or sold for exorbitant prices.
If you have information on hoarding or price gouging of critical supplies, you can report it without leaving your home to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by calling the National Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.