Federal, state and local law enforcement are on high alert to investigate reports of individuals and businesses engaging in a wide range of fraudulent and criminal behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the U.S. Department of Justice is urging citizens to be wary of criminal activity.
Be on the lookout for antibody testing fraud schemes. Never share your personal or health information with anyone other than known and trusted medical professionals.
Be cautious of unsolicited health care fraud schemes through emails, phone calls or in-person contact. While there are medical professionals and scientists working hard to find a cure, approved treatment and vaccine for COVID-19, as of now no verified vaccine or cure is available.
Be on the lookout for an increase in cryptocurrency fraud schemes including but not limited to blackmail attempts, work-from-home scams, paying for nonexistent treatments or equipment and investment scams.
Be wary of unsolicited telephone calls and emails from individuals claiming to be Internal Revenue Service or U.S. Treasury Department employees. The first form of communication for the IRS is by mail, not by phone. Verify you are receiving the official U.S. Treasury check. Look for the new official seal, bleeding ink, microprinting, watermark and more.
Be on the lookout for robocalls making fraudulent offers to sell respiratory masks or other medical devices with no intent of delivery and telephone calls to individuals and entities, including state and local governments, offering the sale of large amounts of personal protection equipment and demanding advance payments with no intent of delivery. Look out for sales of counterfeit, tampered or otherwise fraudulent PPE, including N95 masks, gloves and surgical gowns.
Be aware of unsolicited requests for your Medicare information, even if they are accompanied by offers of “free” COVID-19 tests or supplies or an email or call by someone claiming to be a representative from Medicare or the Department of Health and Human Services. Scammers might use your Medicare information to submit false medical claims for unrelated, unnecessary or fictitious services.
Law enforcement has seen an increase in social media scams and telephone calls fraudulently seeking donations for illegitimate or nonexistent charitable organizations requesting you to enter your bank account information. Emails and texts may claim to be from a charity or use the current crisis to get you to click on a link or download a file. It could be an attempt to infect your computer with malicious software that could steal your personal information, including but not limited to your credit card number or bank password.
Be on the lookout for telephone calls by individuals posing as government officials or payment facilitators promising CARES Act stimulus payments and asking for personal identifying information. Also be aware of mass-mailing, spam email or text-message campaigns to perpetrate government-imposter schemes. These forms of communication provide a website, a phone number or an email address for consumers to contact to arrange for stimulus payments upon payment of an advanced fee or threatening adverse consequences for failure to cooperate with the alleged stimulus-related transaction.
Be wary of calls claiming you received an overpayment of the stimulus money and demanding a “refund” of the difference. Consumers might be threatened with adverse consequences such as fines, forfeiture or arrest if they refuse to refund the money. Callers might demand payments by stored value cards, such as iTunes, Google play or Steam cards, or by money transmission such as Western Union or MoneyGram.
Law enforcement has seen fraud schemes using smartphone apps or websites that claim to be a government office associated with CARES Act programs. These fake sites are requesting personal identifying information, including banking information to deposit stimulus payments. Perpetrators then will use this information to debit money from bank accounts.
Be on the lookout for efforts to divert payments, such as last-minute changes to banking information, through fake emails that appear to come from a trusted source. Be cautious of hackers stealing money, personal identifying information and some fraud elements through fake business emails.
Contact tracing plays a vital role in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. But scammers pretending to be contact tracers and taking advantage of how the process works are also sending text messages.
Find out more about these scams and how to protect yourself by visiting fbi.gov/coronavirus and the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov/coronavirus
Anyone who suspects a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or submit the NCDF Web Complaint Form.