In the wake of tragedy often come predators who want to take advantage of that tragedy. Fraudsters and scam artists follow problems such as novel coronavirus like vultures. Recently, according to the Geary County Sheriff’s Office, such a scam has cropped up here.

The Sheriff’s Office heard Monday of a new scam where people receive phone calls from someone claiming to be with the federal government. The scammers claim they’re trying to help people receive their stimulus checks and ask for people’s personal banking information so they can deposit the funds directly into their bank account.

The Sheriff’s Office asks people not to provide any personal information to these subjects, as this is a scam.

U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister of the District of Kansas has urged members of the public to report any suspected fraud related to COVID-19 by calling National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or emailing disaster@leo.gov.

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, according to McAllister’s office.

“We’re open for business and our mission is to protect the public,” McAllister said. “We will prosecute anyone seeking to profit unlawfully from the public’s fear of COVID-19.”

Aside from the one that has cropped up locally, there are a variety of schemes floating around out there. They can include:

Individuals and businesses selling phony cures for COVID-19 online and similar forms of fraud.

Phishing emails from groups posing as legitimate groups such as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Malicious websites and apps appearing to share Coronavirus-related information but that gain and lock access to devices, holding them for ransom.

Seeking donations under false pretenses for illegitimate or nonexistent charitable organizations.

Medical providers taking patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.

According to McAllister’s office, 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 District of Kansas Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator is Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Rask.

The NCDF can receive and enter fraud and scam complaints into a centralized system accessible by all U.S. Attorneys and also Justice Department litigating and law enforcement components to identify, investigate and prosecute the fraud. The NCDF coordinates complaints with 16 additional federal law enforcement agencies and also state Attorneys General and local authorities.

For more information, please visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

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