U.S. Attorney urges the public to report suspected COVID-19 fraud
Memphis, TN – U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee today urged the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVIC-19 (the Coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDC) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or to the NCDF e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
In coordination with the Department of Justice, Attorney General William Barr has directed U.S. Attorneys nationwide to remain vigilant in detecting, investigating and prosecuting criminal activity associated with the Coronavirus crisis, and to prioritize the prosecution of COVID-19 fraud schemes. The NCDF Hotline 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.
As part of the COVID-19 strategy, U.S. Attorney Dunavant has appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Arvin, a veteran federal prosecutor and Senior Litigation Counsel in the office, to serve as the district’s COVID-19 Coordinator. The coordinator serves as legal counsel for the district on matters relating to the Coronavirus, prosecute or assist in the prosecution of Coronavirus cases, and conduct public outreach and awareness related to the virus.
United States Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said, “Our office is absolutely committed to bringing to justice those who would seek to take advantage of our friends, family, and neighbors during this challenging and uncertain time, but we need the public’s help. If you see, hear of it, or suspect it - report it. Like everything else we are doing as a nation right now, we can combat COVID-19 fraud, but we have to do it together. The message is clear: Good guys - we have your back and need your help. Bad guys - we are coming after you.”
Some examples of these 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.
In a memorandum to U.S. Attorneys issued March 19, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen also directed each U.S. Attorney to appoint a Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator to serve as the legal counsel for the federal judicial district on matters relating to the Coronavirus, direct the prosecution of Coronavirus-related crimes, and to conduct outreach and awareness activities. The Western District of Tennessee Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator is Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Arvin.
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.