Law enforcement agencies in Virginia have created a new task force to deal specifically with the rising deluge of scams based around the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Virginia Coronavirus Task Force is a joint federal and state initiative led by assistant United States attorneys from both the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia, in partnership with experienced fraud investigators from the Virginia State Police and the FBI.
“The FBI is fully committed to address criminal activity during this unprecedented time—especially cyber-crime,” said David Archey, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division.
“We encourage the American public to continue being vigilant and take steps to protect themselves against those that may exploit the concerns surrounding COVID-19 as a means to steal your money.”
Agent Archey advised the public to think before they click and to verify the authenticity of any information about the coronavirus pandemic that they glean via the internet.
“Consider these tips: Do not open attachments or click on links from senders you do not recognize; Verify the information being shared actually originates from a legitimate source; Do not share your logins, banking information or other personal information in response to an email; and only visit websites that you have manually typed their domains into your browser,” said Archey.
Thomas Cullen, US attorney for the Western District of Virginia said the task force would do all in its power to punish “morally reprehensible” fraudsters exploiting the global health crisis.
“Federal prosecutors in Virginia are working closely with the FBI and the Virginia State Police to identify individuals who are engaging in coronavirus fraud, in its various forms, and preying on vulnerable populations,” said Cullen.
“We are focused on the fraud, not the amount of the loss, and will utilize all available tools and statutes to put bad actors in federal prison.”
Coronavirus scams currently doing the rounds involve bogus charities, fake medical and vaccine supplies, malicious virus tracking apps, investment scams touting fictitious cures, and price-gouging scams.
Americans in search of verified information on the COVID-19 outbreak are advised to visit the website usa.gov/coronavirus. Internet scams and other suspicious activities can be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center via the website ic3.gov.
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