U.S. Attorney’s Offices Announce Investigations Into COVID-19 Scams

ByVeronica Nannis in Fraud, Labor & Employement April 1st, 2020

Fraudsters are always looking for ways to fleece the public or the government, and to obtain payments to which they are not entitled. Now that the world is in the grips of a pandemic and much of the country is on lockdown, fraudsters have not slowed down. The government has already identified COVID-19-related fraud schemes that are being run by fraudsters. Some scams target the public and others target government money.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida issued an announcement about a multi-agency group to investigate and prosecute COVID-19 fraud. Likewise, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced a COVID-19 Pandemic Fraud Hotline as part of its active investigation into COVID-19 fraud.

Some of the fraud already identified by these offices include:  

Testing Scams

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

- Scammers are impersonating organizations, such as The Red Cross, and saying that they are offering COVID-19 home tests door-to-door. The scammers then fraudulently charge their victims for tests that are never administered.  

Treatment Scams

- Scammers are offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19. All of these claims are a lie, as there is no cure or vaccine yet for COVID-19. 

- Similarly, scammers are impersonating governmental organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and urging people to reserve a vaccine for COVID-19 with their credit card, and to also provide personal information such as their Social Security Number.

- Unscrupulous doctors are writing prescriptions for medications that are said to cure COVID-19, for which there is as yet no known cure or therapeutic treatment. This fraudulently charges the government or other insurers. It also encourages unwitting consumers to take unapproved medication that can be harmful and deprive others who need the medicines for legitimate purposes.

Supply Scams

Scammers are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks. When consumers attempt to purchase supplies through these channels, fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.

Provider Scams

Scammers are also contacting people by phone and email, pretending to be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19, and demanding payment for that treatment.

If you have personal knowledge of scams on the public, please contact the authorities, including the various U.S. Attorney’s Offices that have set up task forces. If you have personal knowledge of fraud on the government, like overbilling Medicare or Medicaid, or charging for treatments that are not legitimate or were not actually performed, you may be a whistleblower and should seek an experienced whistleblower attorney for a consultation.  

Veronica Nannis

Veronica Nannis is a Principal and the litigation practice group manager at Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A. She focuses on complex, civil litigation, including business disputes, employment litigation and False Claim Act cases involving health care fraud. You can find her on LinkedIn or email her at: vnannis@jgllaw.com.

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