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Justice Dep’t tackles coronavirus scam site, first of probably many

scamalamadingdong — Scammers gonna scam, but the DOJ is trying to shut them down when they pop up. Kate Cox – Mar 23, 2020 8:39 pm UTC Enlarge / Fraudulent websites never actually look like this, really, but if you come across one that does, maybe don’t put in your credit card information.The US Department…

scamalamadingdong —

Scammers gonna scam, but the DOJ is trying to shut them down when they pop up.


Stock photo of hands operating a laptop while holding a credit card.

Enlarge / Fraudulent websites never actually look like this, really, but if you come across one that does, maybe don’t put in your credit card information.

The US Department of Justice is keeping busy during the coronavirus crisis: the agency has filed its first—but unfortunately, almost certainly not last—suit to take down a fraudulent scheme allegedly trying to profit off Americans’ fears about the virus.

The DOJ said late Sunday that it filed suit in Austin against the operators of website coronavirusmedicalkit.com and issuing a restraining order requiring the registrar to block access to it. (As of this writing the site is indeed offline.)

The site operators were engaging in a “predatory wire fraud scheme,” the suit (PDF) alleges. When it was online, the site claimed that the World Health Organization was offering free vaccine kits for COVID-19. All users had to do to get these “free” kits was enter their credit card information and pay $4.95 for shipping. The site also featured an image of Dr. Anthony Fauci—the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and current leading US expert in infections disease—to make itself look more official.

The WHO, of course, does not have a vaccine protecting against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, because no one does. There are very early tests of potential new vaccine technologies in progress, as well as potential treatments for COVID-19 being researched, but nothing is actually available yet. At best, experts hope a vaccine could be available in about 18 months.

That makes the claims “false and fraudulent,” the complaint says—the site, in short, is a way not only to separate users from their $5 and send them nothing, but it’s also a way to harvest personal financial information that can then be used for other crimes down the line.

“Americans are understandably desperate to find solutions to keep their families safe and healthy” around COVID-19, said Christopher Combs of the FBI’s San Antonio Field Office. “Fraudsters who seek to profit from their fear and uncertainty, by selling bogus vaccines or cures, not only steal limited resources from our communities, they pose an even greater danger by spreading misinformation and creating confusion.”

State attorneys general, too, have been cautioning residents to watch out for scam artists trying to take advantage of the current pandemic for their own gain. New York Attorney General Letitia James recently ordered two different companies to stop selling and marketing products as coronavirus cures. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra likewise issued a warning today saying, “Do not be hustled by opportunistic tricksters claiming to have a miracle cure.”

If you think you’ve seen a scam, you can report it. The DOJ urges the public to make a complaint to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) either by phone, at 1-866-720-5721, or by email to disaster@leo.gov. You can also run a search for your state attorney general’s website and file a complaint in that way.

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