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U.S. Attorneys told to go after COVID-19 scammers

Posted: 5:23 PM, Mar 25, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-25 17:41:48-04

BALTIMORE — As if we didn’t have enough to think about, scammers have been coming up with new ways to trick you into sending them money.

While public health officials work to flatten the curve of coronavirus cases, U.S. Attorneys around the country have been instructed by the Department of Justice to get ahead of the curve of coronavirus-related fraud schemes.

“We want to make sure we do everything we can to prevent people from falling prey to fraudsters as opposed to simply being in the position to prosecuting people after the fact. We want to get the public service message out,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert Hur.

The public can report scams to the National Center for Disaster Fraud, an agency established after Hurricane Katrina where in the wake of all the devastation, complaints of fraud poured in.

Now it’s a pandemic that’s sweeping across the country and Hur said he’s already received reports hitting close to home.

“One fraudulent website was masquerading as the Johns Hopkins map of COVID-19 cases around the world. Unfortunately, when you would click on that website, it would download malware on your computer,” Hur said.

And WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii has heard from viewers who saw Johns Hopkins or the Maryland Department of Health on their caller ID, but when they answered, they were told they owe money on their utility bill. This is called spoofing.

“Always be skeptical, always be on your guard, particularly when the person on the other end of that phone call or the other end of that email is asking for money,” Hur said.

Report COVID-19 Fraud
The National Center for Disaster Fraud can be reached at their hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing disaster@leo.gov.

The Justice Department also has a new elder fraud hotline. The number is 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).

To file a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission, click here.

Remember to talk your family, older friends or neighbors and warn them about these kinds of scams so they don't fall victim.

And keep in mind that while these agencies can’t guarantee an immediate response, your tip may be a piece of the puzzle they need in order to track down scammers and bring them to justice.

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