CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – The National Center for Disaster Fraud is warning the public about scams related to coronavirus.
Pandemic Fraud Coordinator of the Northern District of West Virginia Andrew Cogar said the NCDF is looking for scams related to price gouging, people promising to sell vaccines and test kits, mortgage relief and asking for assistance with the federal government’s stimulus package.
Cogar said scammers are taking advantage of people during this time of uncertainty, and he will do everything he can to address this issue.
“As an office, and my U.S Attorney Bill Powell all believe very strongly, it’s a despicable, egregious act to take advantage of the vulnerabilities and fears of people during this, this crisis for their own profit. So, our office is going to pursue these cases aggressively, and we really encourage people to, to report them immediately,” said Cogar.
According to a release from U.S. Attorney, Bill Powell, Cogar will be assisting the national COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force. The task force will develop enforcement measures, best practices, work closely with HHS as they designate particular items and equipment and coordinate nationwide investigation and prosecution of illegal activities. Attorney Powell explained that this task force is essential to helping those who are battling the virus on the frontlines, such as medical staff.
“With the medical community on the front lines to battle this silent but deadly enemy, we must do everything we can to protect our medical providers, and ensure that they have reasonable access to all of the supplies they need to battle this pandemic. Anyone who is considering profiting off of those needs will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Powell.
Powell is also encouraging residents and medical professionals to stay alert and act quickly when reporting any COVID-19 related fraud. Some of those examples include:
- Treatment scams: Scammers are offering to sell fake cures, vaccines and advice on
unproven treatments for COVID-19.
- Supply scams: Scammers are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and
email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as
surgical masks. When consumers attempt to purchase supplies through these channels,
fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.
- Provider scams: Scammers are also contacting people by phone and email, pretending to
be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19, and
demanding payment for that treatment.
- Charity scams: Scammers are soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas
affected by COVID-19.
- Phishing scams: Scammers posing as national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.
- App scams: Scammers are also creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information.
- Investment scams: Scammers are offering online promotions on various platforms, including social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often styled as “research reports,” make predictions of a specific “target price,” and relate to microcap stocks, or low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies with limited publicly available information.
- Price Gouging scams: When sellers and/or retailers sell or rent an item for a price. Goods and services included in this are food items; goods or services used for emergency cleanup, emergency supplies, medical supplies, home heating oil, building materials, housing, transportation, freight, and storage services and gasoline or other motor fuels.
- Other scams: Fraudsters claiming to work for the government or banks/credit card and offering assistance for student loan relief, foreclosure or eviction relief, unemployment assistance, debt relief, and direct financial assistance, like government checks.
To report a scam, call the Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.