MACON – Charlie Peeler, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, is urging the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the coronavirus) and has appointed a federal prosecutor to investigate and prosecute these cases. In coordination with the Department of Justice, Attorney General William Barr directed U.S. Attorneys to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of coronavirus fraud schemes.

The public can report fraud schemes to the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline (1-866-720-5721) or to the NCDF e-mail address disaster@leo.gov. The NCDF Hotline can receive and enter complaints into a centralized system that can be accessed by all U.S. Attorneys, as well as Justice Department litigating and law enforcement components to identify, investigate and prosecute fraud schemes.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen also directed each U.S. Attorney to appoint a Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator to serve as the legal counsel for the federal judicial district on matters relating to the coronavirus, direct the prosecution of coronavirus-related crimes, and to conduct outreach and awareness activities. The District of Middle Georgia’s Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator is Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Crane.

“Like the rest of the country, COVID-19 has impacted the lives of citizens throughout the Middle District of Georgia, yet there are fraudsters out there trying to exploit this situation for their own financial benefit,” Peeler said in a news release. “Our office and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners stand ready to investigate and prosecute COVID-19 fraud scams in every community we serve. We are asking the public to remain alert to potential schemes. And, to all scam artists attempting to defraud the public during this difficult time: We will prosecute you to the fullest extent allowed by law. Count on it.”

Some examples of these schemes include:

♦ Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.

♦ Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

♦ Malicious websites and apps that appear to share Coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.

♦ Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.

♦ Medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.

The NCDF can receive and enter complaints into a centralized system that can be accessed by all U.S. Attorneys, as well as Justice Department litigating and law enforcement components to identify, investigate and prosecute fraud schemes. The NCDF coordinates complaints with 16 additional federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state attorneys general and local authorities.

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