2019 novel coronavirus

Illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control shows the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China.

HAMMOND — In coordination with the Department of Justice, Attorney General William Barr has directed U.S. attorneys to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of coronavirus fraud schemes.

“Our mission will not change during this national emergency,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch. “We will continue to prosecute criminals, including fraudsters, who wish to prey on our citizens, either by fraud or force. Our law enforcement partnerships remain strong and committed to reducing crime throughout the District.”

Some examples of these COVID-19 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 Northern District of Indiana coronavirus fraud coordinator is Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Bell.

The public is urged to report any suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 to Bell at 219-937-5656, the Indiana FBI at 317-595-4000, the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or to the NCDF e-mail address disaster @leo.gov.

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.

To find more about Department of Justice resources and information, visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

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