U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph of the Western District of Louisiana urged the public on Monday to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or to the NCDF e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
In coordination with law enforcement agencies, United States Attorney General William Barr has directed U.S. Attorneys to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of Coronavirus 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. The NCDF coordinates complaints with 16 additional federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state Attorneys General and local authorities.
"During this time of uncertainty related to the COVID-19 outbreak, my first and foremost obligation is to maintain law and order and ensure the safety and security of Louisiana's citizens," said U.S. Attorney Joseph. "While the vast majority of us are acting as a community to focus on our collective health, there are scammers and fraudsters out there using fear and misinformation to target the most vulnerable among us. My office and our law enforcement partners are committed to detecting, investigating, and prosecuting those who use this pandemic to illegally profit. Make no mistake: this type of behavior will be aggressively prosecuted by my office. If anyone suspects fraud or has been victimized in this way, I urge you to report it to the NCDF hotline."
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; and
· 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. U.S. Attorney Joseph has appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth D. Reeg to be the Western District of Louisiana Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator. AUSA Reeg can be reached through the main number at the U.S. Attorney's Office - (318) 676-3600.
To find more about Department of Justice resources and information, visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
The United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Louisiana serves 42 of Louisiana's 64 parishes.