The Central District of Illinois Courts, the Illinois Attorney General’s office and the Springfield Division of the FBI are warning residents about potential scams surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul warned the public earlier this week about products that are marketed as cures or total preventatives to COVID-19. According to Raoul’s office, individuals should be cautious of any advice or claims being made that certain products can “cure” COVID-19 or prevent the contraction of COVID-19. Products such as chlorine dioxide, hydroxycholroquine, essential oils, silver, elderberry and garlic are being advertised as “cures” for COVID-19. Raoul urges Illinoisans to not purchase any product promoted online on social media or via email that is being touted as a cure to COVID-19.
Raoul also is urging people to be wary of emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other entities claiming to have information about COVID-19, or offering treatments or cures. According to the CDC, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it. Raoul has asked for residents to forward such emails to his office. Raoul is also encouraging people to exercise caution when donating to charitable causes connected to the COVID-19 outbreak. He has asked for people to double check with his office to ensure the charities are viable and recognized.
Raoul encourages donors to report suspicious solicitations to his office’s Charitable Trust Bureau at 312-814-2595 (TTY: 1-800-964-3013). People can report scams connected to the COVID-19 outbreak by visiting the Attorney General’s website or by calling Raoul’s Consumer Fraud Hotline at 1-800-243-0618.
Central District of Illinois U.S. Attorney John C. Milhiser and FBI Special Agent in Charge at the Springfield Division Sean M. Cox, said in a joint release that the uncertainty of the times gives predators the means to prey on people’s emotions: “Unfortunately, while uncertainty can reveal the best of our society and citizens’ good will and generosity, scammers and fraudsters take advantage of others, to prey on people’s fears and to exploit our compassion and generosity. New scams will emerge; not only person to person, but also cyber criminals who will perpetuate scams to steal your money, by selling fake cures online and other forms of cyber fraud, such as phishing emails or malware inserted into mobile apps that appear legitimate to track the spread of the virus. These frauds attempt to exploit and target the elderly, the sick, and the economically disadvantaged. We urge the public to exercise caution and be alert for scams and frauds.”
To report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 call the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or forward them correspondence via email at email@example.com. The NCDF can receive and enter complaints into a centralized system that can be accessed by all U.S. Attorneys, as well as Justice Department litigating and law enforcement components to identify, investigate and prosecute fraud schemes. The NCDF also coordinates complaints with 16 additional federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state Attorneys General and local authorities. Complaints may also be submitted directly to the FBI at www.ic3.gov.