U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph announced on March 31 that he had launched a new task force to protect citizens of Louisiana during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

 

An official release states: “The Western District of Louisiana’s COVID-19 Fraud Task Force (Task Force) brings together multiple federal investigative agencies under the leadership of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to share and receive intelligence related to the scams being perpetrated on-line and in-person by individuals seeking to exploit the evolving public health crisis.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth D. Reeg was named the official Fraud Coordinator, and will be in charge of the task force. 

Joseph expressed to the public that he was actively working to help protect citizens from those who would try to defraud them. 

“The public should know that my office remains fully operational during the COVID-19 pandemic and will be focusing on those who seek to unlawfully exploit others during this difficult time,” said U.S. Attorney Joseph. “The last thing our community needs as we come together to fight this pandemic are certain individuals among us preying upon the fears of others for financial gain.  Through the formation of this Task Force, federal prosecutors from my office will collaborate on a daily basis with investigators to identify, investigate, and aggressively prosecute those attempting to profit from this emergency. I want to thank all of the agencies and federal agents that are joining us in this effort – each of which brings considerable expertise to the fight.”

U.S. Attorney listed the following examples of scams that residents should be on the lookout for: 

Unlawful Hoarding and Price-Gouging: Scammers gathering large amounts of scarce items and attempting to sell them at an extremely high price  

Testing Scams: Scammers selling fake at-home test kits or going door-to-door performing fake tests for money.

Treatment Scams: Scammers offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19.

Supply Scams: Scammers claiming to sell supplies that are in high demand.

Provider Scams: Scammers pretending to be from a hospital or healthcare provider

Charity Scams: Scammers soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.

Phishing Scams and Cyber Intrusions: 

App Scams: Scammers making fake COVID-19 tracker apps for smartphones. Investment Scams: Scammers claiming to have a product that will prevent, detect, treat or cure for COVID-19

$1,000 Check Scams: Scammers attempting to get bank account information from residents by claiming that they have their stimulus check.

Those who may be victims of any of the previously mentioned scams can file a report via email at www.disaster@leo.gov, or call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721. Citizens are also encouraged to contact Western District of Louisiana Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, AUSA Seth Reeg, can be reached at: (318) 676-3600.