MICHIGAN CITY — As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to upend local businesses and people’s lives, fraudsters have reportedly started to take advantage of the situation.
And are making things worse.
So the Michigan City Police Department, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill and U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II want to warn area residents against those trying to take advantage of people’s fears.
On Thursday, the MCPD said the COVID-19 health emergency has led to a variety of new scams popping up in emails and in unsolicited phone calls. Some of the scams include the sale of vaccinations, requests for donations to help fund a vaccine, offer of vital supplies being for sale (i.e. masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves), and unsolicited work from home emails. The department asks that you take precautions to avoid falling for these scams. Do your research before sending money to an unknown location, and report any suspicious emails or phone calls to ftc.gov/complaint.
Attorney General Hill urged Hoosiers also asked residents to remain vigilant and lookout for fraudulent activities.
“The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly left many Hoosiers feeling worried, scared or uncertain about the world around them,” Hill said. “Scammers capitalize on challenging times like this to prey on innocent consumers. Falling victim to a scam during this pandemic could have irreversible consequences.”
The Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division is also actively communicating with health departments, health clinics and retail outlets to stay on top of potential scams and concerns, he said. Cyber scams involving emails or text messages related to the coronavirus have already been reported.
The FBI is also getting involved.
U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II said is office will remain vigilant in addressing these scams.
“Criminals, including fraudsters, will not find a safe harbor,” he said. “My office will work closely with our state and local counterparts and with federal, state, and local law enforcement to aggressively pursue and punish criminal wrong doers, especially those who prey upon the most vulnerable during this time. If you considering ways in which to criminally take advantage of our vulnerabilities, I strongly urge you to consider the severe consequences you will face when you are caught.
To quickly respond to emerging fraud schemes, he has appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Bell, who heads the office’s Criminal Division, to coordinate the investigation and prosecution of COVID-19 schemes.
Kirsch encourages anyone with information about fraud schemes to call the Indiana FBI at (317) 595-4000 or Bell at (219) 937-5656.
Tips from the Federal Trade Commission include:
Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) – online or in stores.
Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.