U.S. Attorney Urges the Public to Report Suspected COVID-19 Fraud
Fairview Heights, Ill. - U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft of the Southern District of Illinois today appointed a Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator and 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 sending complaints 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 NCDF coordinates complaints with 16 additional federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state attorneys general and local authorities.
"As our nation weathers this crisis, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois will remain open and continue to serve out its critical mission," said U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft. "At the direction of the Attorney General, this office will also be working to ensure that anyone who would exploit this public health emergency for their own fraudulent gain is discovered and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Across the world, there have already been reports of online advertisements for fake Coronavirus cures, phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and even malicious websites and apps that appear to share Coronavirus-related information, only to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received. Consumers should also be aware of these other reported scams:
• Private companies purporting to sell COVID-19 tests or lists of infected persons.
• Online resellers peddling fake, low-quality and potentially dangerous health care and hygiene products, including face masks, lotions, and sanitizers.
• Door-to-door sales of professional "decontamination" services.
• Fake charities and phony fundraising offers.
• Medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.
The elderly are likely to be targeted in many of these schemes and should be especially wary of any virus-related marketing efforts that appear to be aimed specifically at older Americans. As the economic impact of the crisis worsens, companies advertising debt relief services, government assistance to displaced workers, or investment opportunities promising quick, high-dollar returns should also be viewed with caution.
On March 19, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen 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, to direct the prosecution of Coronavirus-related crimes, and to conduct outreach and awareness activities. The Southern District of Illinois has appointed the chief of the Fraud and Corruption Division, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott A. Verseman, to serve as our Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator.