Federal prosecutors are taking proactive steps to stop fraud schemes associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
In Buffalo, U.S. Attorney James Kennedy, Jr., has appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rudroff to serve as Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator for the Western District of New York.
The new position, Kennedy said, will help identify and prosecute fraud schemes, many of which have become increasingly prevalent.
"Some examples of the schemes that we're seeing include individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud," Kennedy said. "[We're also seeing] phishing emails from entities posing as organizations like the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control [and] malicious websites and apps that appear to share coronavirus-related information in order to gain access to your device and then to lock it until payment is received."
Other fraudulent schemes are soliciting donations for illegitimate charities. However, Kennedy said no such schemes have been reported yet in Western New York.
In order to stay vigilant about potential scams, Kennedy urged Western New Yorkers to be highly skeptical of anything they see on social media and emails from untrusted sources.
"No reputable organization is going to ask you for personal identifying information," he said. "The traditional things that we think about [apply]. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
Kennedy also asked the public to report any potential scams by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
"If people do report them [scams], they shouldn't be embarassed," Kennedy said. "This is new ground for all of us. So, they shouldn't be embarassed, they should be willing to come forward and be proactive. That's something that they can control in these uncertain times when it feels like there's so little we can control."
And Kennedy also had a message for anyone carrying out fraudulent schemes related to the new virus.
"We will find you and we will treat you, and your treatment will include prosecution in federal court, and, if convicted, isolation in federal prison."
More information is available at justice.gov/coronavirus.