Identifying COVID-19 Scams
The response to the rise of COVID-19 may have been criticized in some areas, but the response of the Department of Justice has been swift with the agency forming a COVID-19 taskforce back in March 2020. The idea behind the launch of the task force was for a swift response for the criminals who are trying to prey on the vulnerable and elderly during a time when many people are lonely and afraid.
One of the areas that have caused the biggest leap in criminal cases over the last few months has been the stimulus payments made as part of the CARES Act. The attempt by the U.S. Treasury to pump more than $2 trillion into the economy in direct payments to Americans has seen the rise in scams moving far beyond the healthcare issues that remain in place. COVID-19 scams are also rising in the financial sector with a number of scams being exposed in the investment sector with criminal gangs looking to defraud individuals of their stimulus payments through fake research opportunities.
Fake Medical Treatments
There have been by far the most prosecutions in the area of sham medical treatments linked to the COVID-19 outbreak. Following a memo sent out to field offices by Attorney General Barr which stated the most important area of investigations that should be looked into was COVID-19 scams, the sham medical treatment sector has exploded across the U.S. Among the issues that have been reported has been the rise in pesticides and insecticides being marketed by individuals as a treatment for Coronavirus.
The explosion of sham medical treatments takes in the use of elixirs, potions, and fake treatments not designed for human consumption or clinically unproven. The names of celebrities are often linked to various cure-all potions and treatments is a sign of a scam that should be avoided by all. When a fake medical scam takes the form of an investment opportunity with returns promised in the 200 to 300 percent range the opportunity should be avoided.
PPE Sale Scams
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been one of the most sought after supplies for the medical sector as shortages have hampered the efforts of first-line medical responders. Across the U.S., the number of charges brought against defendants who have been growing as the number of scams has also been building.
Among the scams that have been exposed is that by one individual who was attempting to sell more than $750 million worth of PPE that was proven to not exist. This was just one of the cases that are set to come to trial because of the number of people who are trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 situation by introducing scams that tend to appear at times of crisis.
There are many different ways for an individual to try and conduct fraud against individuals or the U.S. Government during the current pandemic. One of the most common problems being identified by investigators across the U.S. is that of individuals looking to take advantage of the higher budget offered for healthcare services across the U.S.
In one case, an individual was charged with attempting to benefit from kickbacks offered on the use of COVID-19 and respiratory testing that was shown to be unnecessary. The use of medical testing and screening as one of the most important factors in the fight against COVID-19 is being hijacked by those who are looking to defraud the U.S. Government.