U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito of the District of New Jersey urged the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In coordination with the Department of Justice, Attorney General William Barr has directed U.S. Attorneys to prioritize the investigation and 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, according to information provided on March 21. The NCDF coordinates complaints with 16 additional federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state Attorneys General and local authorities.
“Unfortunately, we have already seen examples in New Jersey of unscrupulous people trying to take advantage of this global pandemic to cheat frightened citizens and the government out of money,” Carpenito said in the statement. “Our mission to protect the public is as important now as ever, and we will investigate and prosecute these fraudsters with every resource we have.”
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 COVID-19s-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 COVID-19, direct the prosecution of COVID-19-related crimes, and to conduct outreach and awareness activities. The District of New Jersey Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator is Daniel Shapiro, Chief of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.