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DOJ warns of sexual harassment in housing facilities, other COVID-19 related scams

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Posted at 11:50 AM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-04 11:57:26-04

BALTIMORE — The U.S. Department of Justice says they're aware of reports of housing providers sexually harassing tenants, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is reprehensible that some try to take advantage of this global pandemic at the expense of the most vulnerable,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to working together to identify incidents of sexual harassment in housing and bring these criminals to justice. I urge everyone to remain vigilant and if you see something that doesn’t seem right, please report it.”

In 2017, the Justice Department launched the Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative, aiming to combat sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers or other people who have control over housing.

Since the initiative began, investigators have uncovered many cases of sexual harassment that had been ongoing for years. The DOJ says many tenants don't know that sexual harassment by a housing provider can violate federal law.

Over the years, the DOJ says it's recovered millions of dollars in damages, from lawsuits that have been filed over sexual harassment in housing.

Anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in housing, is encouraged to contact the Civil Rights Division by calling (844) 380-6178 or emailing fairhousing@usdoj.gov; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, at 410-209-4800; or by filing a complaint alleging harassment or discrimination in housing with the Department of Housing and Urban Development through HUD’s website or by calling (800) 669-9777.

The DOJ is also warning of a rise in COVID-19 scams.

Many operate from websites that advertise fake vaccines and cures, advertise fraudulent charity drives, deliver malware, or host various other types of scams. Others come via phone call, text message, or email, that have links attached relating to COVID-19 and money.

The websites often utilize domain names that contain words such as “COVID-19” or “coronavirus.” Some falsely claim to be run by public health organizations or other agencies.

Federal agencies such as Homeland Security, FBI, and the IRS will not call, text, e-mail, or contact you on social media asking for personal or bank account information—even related to the economic impact payments.