by Don Ledford
U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison 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 writing to the NCDF email address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Department of Justice is committed to preventing, pursuing, prosecuting, and punishing individuals and businesses that take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to engage in criminal fraud.
“I have no tolerance for criminals who seize upon this public health crisis as an opportunity to prey on anxious Missourians,” said Garrison. “In contrast to the many citizens who are courageously and generously coming forward to help their neighbors, the actions of a few criminals threaten to make a difficult situation more dangerous. I am therefore making it a priority to investigate and prosecute those who try to profit by selling bogus cures, soliciting fake donations, engaging in online or email phishing scams, or engaging in any other fraud.”
Some examples of these fraud 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.
Garrison announced the appointment of Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Mahoney as the designated Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator. Mahoney, who is the chief of the Fraud and Corruption Unit, will serve as the legal counsel on matters relating to the coronavirus, direct the prosecution of coronavirus-related crimes, and conduct outreach and awareness activities.
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.