Fraudsters’ intentions to scam the public by way of COVID-19 is growing as quickly as the virus spreads, and federal authorities are serious about putting a stop to it.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr has sent a memo to all federal attorneys across the nation directing them to prioritize investigations and prosecutions of those trying to commit fraud related to the global health epidemic.
Barr cited reports of malware being hidden inside mobile phone apps that appear to track the virus, phishing emails that appear to come from the government, organizations selling fake “cures,” and other forms of fraud. (With everyone teleworking, now is the time to be extra careful about cybersecurity.)
Barr has also called for increased prosecution of companies that engage in price-fixing or bid-rigging related to COVID-19, including the manufacture and sale of in-demand products such as face masks and respirators. The problem has gotten so bad, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he receives multiple emails each day from companies claiming “to have some big warehouse somewhere if only we could fork over $1 million in cash up front.” (Sounds like these fraudsters are holding N95 masks for ransom.)
“This pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from panic and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated,” Barr wrote. (Maybe some tough sentencing guidelines on coronavirus-related fraud would get scammers’ attention.)
Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from the article, “Attorney General Prioritizes Prosecuting COVID-19 Scammers,” published in Nextgov on March 17, 2020.
U.S. federal attorneys received a very clear direction from Attorney General William Barr in a memo Monday: “remain vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to” the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Following an influx of reports that scammers and cyber criminals are cashing in on the chaos, Barr launched the memorandum with an explicit directive to encourage deliberate actions to curb the malicious activities.