Wyoming U.S. Attorney Mark A. Klaassen urged the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, he said in a prepared statement on Friday

"It is unfortunate, but criminals often use times of adversity to their advantage," Klaassen said.

"They see moments where our attention is distracted or we are susceptible to emotional responses as an opportunity to commit brazen acts of fraud," Klaassen said. "My office and our partners in state and local law enforcement are ready to take actions necessary to stop these crimes, but we need everyone’s help to report these schemes before they cause harm.”

Courtesy, Wyoming U.S. Attorney's Office
Courtesy, Wyoming U.S. Attorney's Office

Examples of potential fraud schemes include:

  • Individuals and businesses selling fake testing kits, masks, treatments or cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
  • Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the U.S/ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Robo-calls or phishing emails purporting to be airline or other travel cancellation communications that are actually scams used to collect personal information.
  • Malicious websites and ransomware apps that appear to share coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
  • Persons 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.
  • Price gouging on high demand consumer products.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the Department of Justice have directed U.S. Attorneys to make the investigation and prosecution of coronavirus fraud schemes a top priority.

“I have been in contact with Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill to discuss the situation," Klaassen said. "Our offices will be cooperating to address any reports of fraud or price gouging occurring in Wyoming."

Klaassen has appointed Assistant U.S Attorney Christyne Martens to serve as the coronavirus fraud coordinator for Wyoming.

Martens will provide legal counsel for the federal judicial district on matters relating to the coronavirus, direct the prosecution of coronavirus-related crimes, and conduct outreach and awareness activities.

The National Center for Disaster Fraud has a hotline that receives and enters 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 report suspected fraud, call the NCDF hotline at (8660 720-5721) or email the NCDF at disaster@leo.gov.

People also may report suspected fraud to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Consumer Protection Unit of the Wyoming Attorney General, or their local law enforcement agencies.

Visit the Department of Justice website to learn more about resources and information.

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