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The impact of the novel coronavirus has left more than 30 million people throughout the nation without jobs or out of work and struggling for money, while millions more have desperately sought equipment to combat the global pandemic.
More than 1.178 million COVID-19 cases have been reported nationwide as of Monday night, and at least 251,059 people have died as a result of COVID-19-related illness, data shows.
During the past several weeks, members of the public have also scrambled to find personal protective equipment, such as N95 masks and gloves, for themselves or their families. Or they have sought access to COVID-19 testing, as concern about the virus grew.
Fraudsters have, in turn, preyed upon those fears by scamming people into giving away their personal information, paying inflated prices for coveted products, spending money on bogus virus cures and prevention treatments and, in some cases, even committing crimes.
Here’s what you can do if you believe you’d fallen victim to COVID-19 fraud, based on the type of scam:
SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION LOAN FRAUD
Fraudsters have recently set their sights on unknowing victims willing to hand over their money or personal information in the hopes of getting one step closer to receiving their small business loans. Scammers have begun using grant and loan fraud and phishing scams.
You can learn more about SBA loan fraud, and the signs of a scam, by clicking here.
SBA Office of the Inspector General hotline: (800) 767-0385
Online, by clicking here.
Anyone with questions about the loans can email the SBA’s Answer Desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVID-19-RELATED MONEY MULE SCHEMES
“When criminals obtain money illegally, they have to find a way to move and hide the illicit funds,” the FBI has warned. “They scam other people, known as money mules, into moving this illicit money for them either through funds transfers, physical movement of cash or through various other methods.”
Money mules, the agency explained, are typically recruited through dating apps and websites or through Internet-based “work-from-home” schemes.
You can learn more about money mule scams by clicking here.
The FBI urges anyone who believes to have been solicited to be a money mule to contact their local field office.
Online, at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
COVID-19 CYBER/INTERNET SCAMS
If you believe you or someone you know was the victim of a virus-related cyber scam or any suspicious activity, report the incident online, at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
You can learn more about these types of scams and find some examples by clicking here.
HEALTH CARE FRAUD
Scammers are selling fake or unapproved COVID-19 treatments and test kits, or even offering free health care to people, as a way to trick their unknowing victims into handing over their health insurance details or other personal information.
You can learn more about these scams by clicking here.
Anyone who has information pertaining to what they believe to be a health care fraud scheme can report it using any of the following methods:
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, which you can access by clicking here.
The FBI’s general tip-line, which you can access by clicking here or by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI.
The National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline, which can be reached at 1-866-720-5721, or by emailing at email@example.com.