While many people look for ways to lend a hand in times of difficulty and uncertainty like those we face during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, others attempt to take advantage of the chaos for personal gain. Much like how the recession in the late 2000s saw a surge in fraudulent activity, today’s global climate of increased anxiety is being preyed upon by less scrupulous individuals.
Government Agencies React to Recent Surge in COVID-19 Scams
Fraudsters have come up with an alarming number of methods for capitalizing on the COVID-19 panic such as targeting children who are spending more time online, offering remedies and illegitimate test-kits for the novel coronavirus, or by impersonating government bodies. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has put together a resource for COVID-19 related scams, offering guidance on how to avoid them and what to do if you believe you’ve been targeted by scammers.
Additionally, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has recently launched a new operation dubbed Operation Stolen Promise, focusing on pooling resources from numerous government agencies, departments, and industry representatives to crack down on COVID-19 related criminal activity.
While Operation Stolen Promise has just been announced, HSI agents have already made great strides in stamping out COVID-19 scammers. As of May 29, ICE HSI has issued 38 search warrants and made 18 criminal arrests in addition to 36,393 COVID-19 related website domains analyzed for legitimacy and over USD $4 million+ of illicit proceeds seized.
HSI is partnering with various government agencies such as the FDA, the FBI, and the IRS in addition to many other organizations “to disrupt and dismantle this criminal activity and strengthen global supply-chain security.” Recent surges in criminal activity show how vital it is that we remain vigilant during these trying times. Visit this ICE page for updated information regarding Operation Stolen Promise and to find out how to report suspected criminal activity. Visit this page for HSI's partnership with various organizations to protect consumers against COVID-related fraud.
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