Safeguarding the Nation from the ‘Other’ Coronavirus Crisis: Fraud
As the United States and the world grapple with the immediate public health and economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, a related crisis has simultaneously emerged: a wave of criminals seeking to prey upon an anxious public.
To those of us in law enforcement, this is a situation we dreaded, yet anticipated. Swindles, scams, and outright thefts have long been a feature of major disasters. The more catastrophic the event, the more active the fraudsters.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic provides criminal opportunities on a scale likely to dwarf anything seen before. The speed at which criminals are devising and executing their schemes is truly breathtaking.
The sheer variety of frauds already uncovered is itself shocking. Law enforcement has already learned of offers of sham treatments and vaccines, bogus investment opportunities in non-existent medical companies, and calls from crooks impersonating doctors demanding payment for treatments.
Scammers are targeting websites and mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 and using them to implant malware to steal financial and personal data. Thieves are even posing as national and global health authorities, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, to conduct phishing campaigns. They send e-mails designed to trick recipients eager for reliable health information into downloading malicious code.