Officials need your help: Here is how you can report coronavirus scammers

Officials warn people of COVID-19 scams
Officials warn people of COVID-19 scams

HOUSTON – The coronavirus pandemic has brought the community together in a way completely unique to anything we have ever experienced.

However, for all the people who are working to get past this with a positive attitude, there are those who are looking to take advantage of people who are already struggling.

KPRC 2 spoke with U.S. Attorney Southern District of Texas, Ryan Patrick who said his office is working to bring scammers down.

Patrick is asking for people to be vigilant and report anything they think might be a scam.

“This is serious stuff,” Patrick said. “There are people that are going to try to make money off this. There are people who are (going) to get hurt by these scams and we are trying to get ahold of it.”

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), scammers have used everything from hoax text message campaigns to “scam robocalls offering free home testing kits, promoting bogus cures, selling health insurance, and preying on virus-related fears.”

The text scam involves sending a link to people offering a cure, impersonating the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or telling people there will be a mandatory two-week quarantine and to stock up. People are advised not to click on any links.

Robocall examples include offers for free COVID-19 tests, marketing fake cures and asking for payment over the phone or even offering to clean people’s HVAC system as a way to protect your home from the virus. The FCC advised people to disregard calls and not to share any personal information.

Patrick said his office is trying to get ahead of those types of scammers and more, and they are waiting for people to send in tips.

“The groups that run these calls centers are incredibly sophisticated,” Patrick said. “Our message as federal prosecutors is: we are open for business.”

To submit a tip people can contact 866-720-5721. You can also email disaster@leo.gov. People can also find more information and places to report scams Justice.gov/coronavirus.

For more examples of different scam tactics and what to do if you think you have been scammed, go to FCC.gov/covid-scams

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