COVID Feature: Fake COVID-19 PPE and Medical Equipment

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Healthcare scams are always galling, but scams around desperately need medical equipment and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic are triply heartless. Such COVID-19 fraud wastes money for cash-strapped hospitals, delays acquisition of critical equipment and supplies – and in turn endangers healthcare providers and COVID-19 patients.

The FBI is alerting healthcare organizations that some scammers are promising to furnish equipment and supplies they don’t have or are selling counterfeit (and worthless) supplies like sanitizing products and personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 masks, face shields, goggles, gowns, and gloves. Information on unapproved and counterfeit PPE is available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ with more information on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency websites.

The FBI urges the medical community to be wary of suppliers requesting unusual payment terms such as up-front payment or proof of payment, sudden price changes, excuses for delayed shipments, or unexplained availability of items in scarce supply. Anyone who suspects suspicious activity or potential COVID-19 fraud is encouraged to submit a tip to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov, and contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or email disaster@leo.gov.

Today’s Fraud of the Day Comes from an FBI media release, “FBI Warns Health Care Professionals of Increased Potential for Fraudulent Sales of COVID-19-Related Medical Equipment,” published March 27, 2020.

Scammers continue to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to steal money through a variety of means. The FBI is warning the health care industry in particular of an increased potential for fraudulent activity dealing with the purchase of COVID-19-related medical equipment. Based on the current stress on the supply chain, scammers may promise equipment they do not have access to in order to capitalize on the medical community’s urgent needs. The FBI asks the medical community to exercise due diligence and appropriate caution when dealing with any vendors with whom they have never worked and/or of which they’ve never heard, and when relying on unidentified third-party brokers in the supply chain.

The FBI advises to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity, to include:

  • Unusual payment terms (e.g., supplier asking for up-front payments or proof of payment)
  • Last-minute price changes
  • Last-minute excuses for delay in shipment (e.g., claims that the equipment was seized at port or stuck in customs)
  • Unexplained source of bulk supply
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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.