BUFFALO, N.Y. — There's now a dedicated position to cracking down on coronavirus-related fraud in Western New York.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Rudroff will serve as the Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator for the office of U.S. Attorney James Kennedy in Western New York.
"My message to those who seek to exploit the pandemic for their own personal gain by stealing others’ money, or identity, or both, is simple," Kennedy said in a statement. "We have a treatment for you, and that treatment includes prosecution and federal prison.
"While others may get sick from the virus, most will recover. Sadly, I am not so sure these predators will ever recover from their affliction, as it seems to have rotted their hearts and souls."
Attorney General William Barr had instructed U.S. Attorneys nationwide to prioritize coronavirus-specific fraud schemes. The Department of Justice helped coordinate the move.
There will be a National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline (866-720-5721) as well as an email (email@example.com) to address possible crimes.
Rudroff will be tasked with investigating and prosecuting a variety of crimes, including:
- Individuals and businesses who are attempting to sell fake cures online and engaging in other forms of fraud;
- Phishing emails that involve individuals and businesses posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
- Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
- Entities seeking donations fraudulently or posing as charitable organizations;
- Medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.
Kennedy says that people should not feel embarrassed if they are ripped off. He encourages anyone with a complaint to contact his office. He also says that while no complaints have been reported in WNY yet, he suspects many of the people trying to rip people off will be from outside the United States.