Prosecutors target fraudulent activity tied to COVID-19 crisis

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The office of U.S. Attorney Aaron L. Weisman on March 20 announced the appointment of Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee H. Vilker as the coronavirus fraud coordinator for Rhode Island.

In a statement, Weisman’s office said the appointment and the prioritization of fraud cases related to the COVID-19 crisis come at the direction of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Activity being targeted includes the marketing of fake cures for the virus; the use of phishing emails from people posing as authorities such as the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; malicious websites and apps that purport to provide information regarding the virus; fraudulent charitable drives; and fraudulent medical billing.

Those who believe they have been targeted or victimized by such activity are advised to contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud via its hotline (1-866-720-5721) or email address (disaster@leo.gov).

“These unprecedented times call for unprecedented caution to not only stay safe and healthy, but to not fall victim to fraudsters who, without hesitation, are working every angle to rip-off Americans by stealing their personal identity and their money,” Weisman said in his office’s statement. “Rhode Islanders should not share any information with anyone unless you are 100% certain who you are dealing with. If you suspect fraud, contact the NCDF hotline. The United States Attorney’s Office, our federal law enforcement partners, and the entire Department of Justice stand ready to work together to bring down the hammer and hold fraudsters accountable.”

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