On April 7, 2020, the three United States Attorneys Offices in Georgia, along with the Georgia Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Governor, announced a new COVID-19 Fraud Task Force, which they say is “aimed at better protecting the citizens of Georgia from criminal fraud arising from the pandemic.” From the DOJ’s press release:
The task force will enhance communication between partner agencies and more rapidly share information about COVID-19 fraud, while ensuring each fraud complaint is reported to the appropriate prosecuting agency. Task force member agencies include the Office of the Governor of Georgia, the Office of the Attorney General of Georgia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia. Georgia’s three U.S. Attorneys, the Attorney General of Georgia and the Executive Counsel for the Governor’s Office serve on the task force.
The Press Release lists the following as examples of COVID-19-related fraud that the Task Force will be targeting:
- Treatment scams: Scammers are selling fake vaccines, medicines, and cures for COVID-19.
- Supply scams: Scammers are claiming they have in-demand products, like cleaning and household supplies, and medical supplies, but when an order is placed, the scammer takes the money and never delivers the order.
- Charity scams: Scammers are fraudulently soliciting donations for non-existent charities to help people affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Scammers often use names that are similar to the names of real charities.
- Phishing scams: Scammers, posing as national and global health authorities, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are sending fake emails and texts to trick the recipient into sharing personal information like account numbers, Social Security numbers, and login IDs and passwords.
- App scams: Scammers are creating COVID-19 related apps that contain malware designed to steal the user’s personal information.
- Provider scams: Scammers pretending to be doctors and hospitals demand payment for COVID-19 treatment allegedly provided to a friend or family member of the victim.
- Investment scams: To promote the sale of stock in certain companies—particularly small companies, about which there is little publicly available information—scammers are making false and misleading claims that those companies can prevent, detect or cure COVID-19.
The formation of this Task Force, in combination with other recent statements by the DOJ and State AGs regarding combating COVID-19-related fraud, demonstrates that detecting and punishing such fraud is the government’s top law enforcement priority at this time, and will be for the considerable future. We expect to see a drastic increase in criminal prosecutions and civil and administrative enforcement actions moving forward.
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman – including a former federal prosecutor – represent individuals and businesses of all types and sizes in connection with government investigations. If you are in need of representation in such a matter, please contact us today.