The Federal Trade Commission has received more than 18,000 Coronavirus-related complaints in 2020, with consumers reporting losses of $13.44M to COVID-19 scams. Now, government agencies and industry leaders are fighting back. Learn what these groups are doing to better protect you and your loved ones against Coronavirus scammers.
FBI Arrests Coronavirus Cure Fraudster
According to reports, the FBI arrested a California man on federal charges, alleging that he solicited investments for his company to market and distribute a bogus COVID-19 cure. He claimed that the company would sell pills to prevent Coronavirus infections as well as an injectable cure for people already suffering from COVID-19.
The suspect was arrested during a meeting in which he delivered pills to an undercover agent. He now faces attempted wire fraud charges, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The US Attorney’s Office says it will remain vigilant in investigating and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The FTC and FDA Fight Unapproved Cures and False Claims
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are jointly battling sellers of bogus Coronavirus cures, issuing warning letters to sellers of unapproved and misbranded products that claim to be able to treat or prevent Coronavirus. The products include teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver. (The FDA states that there are no approved vaccines, drugs, or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent COVID-19.)
The FDA has said that it considers the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products to be a threat to the public health, and it will continue to aggressively pursue those threats and hold bad actors accountable.
Cybersecurity Industry Leaders Form the COVID-19 CTI League
In addition to the numerous government agencies fighting against Coronavirus scams, a group of cybersecurity experts from around the world have teamed up to help fight COVID-19-related hacking and phishing attacks.
The COVID-19 CTI League has pledged to fight pandemic-related hacks with a group of 400 cybersecurity volunteers from more than 40 countries, including professionals in senior positions at major companies like Microsoft and Amazon.com.
According to reports, one of the group’s top priorities is to combat attacks against medical facilities and other frontline responders. The group will also use its collective cybersecurity skills and extensive contacts to address other Coronavirus-related schemes, such as the increase in phishing emails.
Social Media Networks Work to Combat COVID-19 Misinformation
Social media company Facebook is reportedly taking steps to fight against the spread of COVID-19 misinformation, saying it has banned advertisements for products that claim to cure or prevent Coronavirus.
According to reports, Facebook is also directing visitors to reliable sources of news, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The company has done the same for its photo-sharing network, Instagram. Messaging service Twitter has reportedly adopted a similar policy.
What to Do If You Believe You Have Been a Victim
- The FTC urges individuals who have encountered any type of fraud—including fraud related to the Coronavirus crisis—to report it on the FTC’s Complaint Assistant site.
- The FDA advises individuals to report any websites that they believe are illegally selling human drugs, animal drugs, medical devices, biological products, foods, dietary supplements, or cosmetics on the FDA’s web page.
- The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) recommends that individuals seek information on COVID-19 from authoritative sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Coronavirus website provided by the White House, the CDC, and FEMA.
- For more information on better detecting and avoiding COVID-19 scams, visit the FTC’s web page Avoiding Coronavirus Scams.